The New American Police State

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The420Guy

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America's New Patriot Act and Patriot II Trash the Constitution and Brand
Political Dissent As Terrorism.

America's war on Iraq, and now possibly Syria, has drawn public and media
attention away from the burgeoning state security apparatus focused on US
domestic matters. Those who think they know better than the rest of us have
set their sights on dissidents of all stripes, including afficionados of a
certain plant.

No matter the Marine Corps Semper Fi inked on your bicep, to indulge in a
bowl on your back porch brands you a dissident. In the broadest sense under
the post-9/11 regime, just about any crime is terrorism. If it's been on TV
it must be true: Drug use equals terrorism. Or so the White House has
instructed the citizenry to the tune of $150 million and more a year.

The new, enhanced police state tactics have been fueled more than anything
by the passage of the US Patriot Act, that is, the Uniting and
Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept
and Obstruct Terrorism Act - and what right-minded member of Congress could
oppose that? Not that they were allowed to read the complex 342-page
legislative package, supposedly written from scratch only one month after
9/11, and passed amidst the oh-so-conveniently timed anthrax scares.

According to Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), one of Congress's most ardent champions
for drug reform, the Patriot Act was rushed through Congress without any
legislative review. In fact, in the anthrax-riddled weeks following 9/11,
Congress was instructed by the Republican leadership to close their eyes,
hold their noses, and authorize sweeping new police powers to the executive
branch. To do otherwise was to risk condemnation by the leadership, blame
for any future terrorist attack, and certain defeat in the next election.

According to an analysis by Nancy Chang, a senior litigation attorney for
the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Patriot Act grants vast new
powers to the executive branch with almost no oversight by Congress or the
judiciary. Chang writes that the Patriot Act threatens the rights of
assembly and freedom of speech "by creating a broad new crime of 'domestic
terrorism.'" Such crimes only have to "appear to be intended to influence
the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion," the law reads. It
remains to be seen how far that will go in terms of criminalizing political
dissent.

Says Chang, even non-violent protest might fall under the act.
Environmental, anti-globalization and anti-abortion activists "who use
direct action to further their political agendas are particularly
vulnerable to prosecution as 'domestic terrorists.'"

Perhaps the main assault is on the right to privacy through granting,
according to Chang, "largely unchecked surveillance powers, including the
enhanced ability to track email and Internet usage, conduct sneak-and-peek
searches, obtain sensitive personal records, monitor financial transactions
and conduct nationwide roving wiretaps." All of this can occur based not on
probable cause, but on the less onerous reasonable cause. And it knocks
down the wall between criminal and intelligence actions and thus "opens the
door to a resurgence of domestic spying by the Central Intelligence Agency."

The sneak-and-peek provision, which is currently denounced in a nationwide
ACLU advertising campaign, means the government can break into your home,
search your possessions, download files from your hard drive, examine the
titles in your library - without you ever knowing they were there. Unlike
standard searches where, to a degree, you can monitor what's happening and
get a receipt for anything removed, the feds can now delay for up to 90
days before giving notice.

Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU Drug Policy Litigation Project, said that
any drug violations stumbled upon during such searches "can give rise to
further investigations." The delay provision of the law applies to any
criminal matter and is not scheduled to expire. Chang asserts that the law
"gives the FBI a green light to resume domestic spying on government
'enemies.'" She points to prior federal spying on civil rights and Vietnam
War protesters "who had been targeted solely because they were believed to
harbor politically dissident views."

The law also allows for monitoring Internet usage, though it remains to be
adjudicated whether this includes the content of email messages. Boyd said
that a "low threshold" now applies as to the government monitoring who
visits what site. "It's now more plausible that the government is watching
who's going to which site or buying an item related to marijuana."

In fact, Boyd was one of several individuals interviewed, including NORML
head Keith Stroup, who asserted that when the Drug Enforcement
Administration busted head shops earlier this year, they diverted patrons
visiting the shops' web sites to DEA sites which could have then captured
patrons' computer addresses. For its part, the DEA said it wasn't targeting
any visitors to the sites.

Rave Culture ATTACKED

As of this writing, Patriot II still lies ahead. That's not the case with
Joseph Biden's (D-Del) resurrected RAVE Act (Reducing Americans'
Vulnerability to Ecstasy Act), which was snuck onto a child protection act
and is now called the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act.

While the reform community, in a rare victory, managed to block Biden's
original RAVE Act last year, he just passed a virtually identical bill that
holds club owners, pool hall mavens, even the owners of sports teams liable
for any drug use on their premises.

As is typical of such legislation, there were no floor votes or committee
hearings on the bill - just attach it to an unrelated piece of legislation
and sneak it through.

Venue owners who conduct their business knowing that drug use may occur on
the premises can now be prosecuted. Never mind that the government can't
keep drugs out of prisons, let some kid smoke a joint in the back of a club
and run the risk of huge fines.

Events which promote drug law reform, such as hempfests and the Million
Marijuana March, might be especially vulnerable to claims that they were
allowing drug use at their events. Organizers of these events could be
prosecuted, fined and jailed.

Said Dale Gieringer of California NORML, "What's upset me the most was the
ease with which Congress slipped through the RAVE Act, just steamrolled it
through." And while raves are not on an interstate scale typically to
invite federal scrutiny, Gieringer worries that local authorities will call
in the the feds to prosecute these cases, since federal penalties are tougher.

- - Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund: www.emdef.org

Patriot 2: Permanent Lockdown

Orrin Hatch, Republican Senator from Utah and head of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, is among those scheming to make the Patriot Act eternal. It was
originally scheduled to end, or "sunset" in 2005, but Senate Republicans
now aim to void that provision of the law.

Though the Justice Department denied its existence for months, a true
patriot finally leaked the provisions of Patriot Act II, the Domestic
Security Enhancement Act of 2003. Already crafted and given to the
Republican congressional leadership, there's been no formal consideration
or even acknowledgment of its existence. It is lying dormant until the
right terror pretext to speed its "emergency" passage occurs.

At least the existence of Patriot I was acknowledged. Only a leak in
February to the respected Washington think tank, the Center for Public
Integrity (CPI), exposed the very existence of the planned Patriot II.
According to CPI, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were lied to
by the Justice Department and told there was no such legislation in the
works. A month and more following CPI's announcement, the Justice
Department finally acknowledged the nascent legislation, the vicious spawn
of Patriot I.

As to its fate, James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the chairman of the House
Judiciary Committee, told the Associated Press, "I can't answer that
because the Justice Department has classified as top-secret most of what
it's doing under the [first] Patriot Act."

According to Libertarian Party national chair, Geoffrey Neale, Patriot II
"would destroy some of the legal protections that make America different
from totalitarian states like Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Iraq. For
example, Patriot II would allow the government to arrest and detain people
in secret, paving the way for the midnight knock on the door that
terrorizes the population in police states."

Neale's statement continues: "There's no need to file charges, present
evidence, or even hold a trial. A simple accusation by the police or an
anonymous informant is all that's needed to lock up an innocent person for
life."

What's more, as analyzed by Alex Jones of Infowars.com, if enacted, Patriot
II would reorganize vast swaths of federal, state and local government
operations under federal executive branch control. Said Jones, its
"tentacles reach into every facet of our society. It strips American
citizens of all of their rights and grants the government and its private
agents total immunity."

And, as revealed by Gannett Newspapers, New Jersey's chief security
official declared earlier this year that during a red alert the highest
terrorism threat warning, which can be issued at whim de facto martial
law will be in effect, and, according to the article, "you will be assumed
by authorities to be the enemy if you so much as venture outside your
home." The official added, "You literally are staying home, is what
happens, unless you are required to be out."

A New Jersey red alert brochure also warns the public to do as they're
told: "You must adhere to the restrictions announced by authorities and
prepare to evacuate, if instructed. Stay alert for emergency messages."

Jones maintains that, should Patriot II pass, people can be grabbed off the
street, never to be seen again, and it will be unlawful to reveal what
happened to such individuals. There will be a national database of "anyone
associated with suspected terrorist groups"; the gathering of information,
such as the writing or reading of this article, can be classified as
"clandestine intelligence activities for a foreign power." It provides for
martial law without a declaration of war; eviscerates the Fourth Amendment
by granting immunity for searches conducted without court approval;
destroys federal whistle-blower protection; allows federal officials to
keep their finances hidden; creates lifetime parole ("basically slavery,"
says Jones) and throws any statute of limitations out the window when
so-called "terrorism" is concerned.

Jones concludes: "From snatch and grab operations to warrantless searches,
Patriot Act II is an Adolf Hitler wish list. You can understand why
President Bush, Dick Cheney, and [House Speaker] Dennis Hastert want to
keep this legislation secret not just from Congress, but from the American
people as well."

Pot-People Beware!

While the new security state's enabling legislation doesn't specifically
target potheads, life sure ain't getting any easier. Seattle-based defense
attorney Jeff Steinborn defends many an accused toker (see his informative
site at www.potbust.com).

In an interview with Cannabis Culture, Steinborn explained that "Under
Bush/Ashcroft, there's a resurgence in focus on marijuana. The
sophistication of some of the investigations I see is astounding, with two
or three inches of paperwork like they're going after a nuclear terrorist,
all for some two-bit marijuana farm."

"It's ratcheted up only one way," added Steinborn. "Once you get those
laws, it's tough to get rid of them."

Ron Crickenberger, political director of the Libertarian Party, said, "The
government has been after marijuana smokers for a long time. Now, they have
new tools and a different direction. For the average home user, it's not a
great deal more trouble. On the sales end of things, though, it's now a lot
tougher."

On the other hand, Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML, told Cannabis
Culture that he has remained focused on protecting patients' rights under
Prop. 215. As to the new security apparatus, he said, "In practical terms,
it's had no impact on the pot-smoking community in California." That said,
given all the DEA raids on the patients' clubs, he worries that war might
suck all the air out of the media and thus provide cover for more DEA action.

Said Boyd, "I haven't seen an explicit connection between the two issues.
But think of the war on terror and the war on drugs and the importance of
metaphor. In both, the government panders to fear as an excuse to expand
its powers which are then used in a wide variety of ways. When the erosion
of the Fourth Amendment is directed at drug users, it affects everyone."

"Metaphorical wars generally are corrosive to civil liberties," added Boyd.
"They trade off rights for security, but the ACLU maintains you can have both."

Chris Conrad, a court-qualified expert and co-author of Shattered Lives:
Portraits from America's Drug War, told Cannabis Culture, "Right now
there's not a huge amount of difference. People are carrying less for
personal use, but that hasn't stopped them from carrying." And, says
Conrad, "Oddly enough, prices are lower these days in California."

Care and Caution

Some among the adept are relatively sanguine. Then there's Steinborn, who
says, "The right-wing Christians' moral indignation; the fear that pot will
destroy children; the enormous political power of the pharmaceutical
industry; the bully pulpit it affords to every two-bit politician; the
disenfranchisement of people who might vote for progressive
causes prohibition suits the interests of a lot of people." Given that,
it's no surprise, says Steinborn, that nearly 60% of the war on drugs'
focus is on marijuana.

But, he adds, believing in the rightness of their cause, pot-people often
take unnecessary risks. Attendees at drug reform conferences, for instance,
confident in the economic clout that 600 people ensconced in a downtown
hotel confer, smoke blatantly in chandelier-encrusted ballrooms. That's not
something two guys attending a wedding in the same room a week later should
try. "You've got to be secretive these days," Steinborn said. "You can't
afford to be cavalier. With neighbors looking to turn people in don't use
a pipe. Roll a joint instead."

Libertarian Ron Crickenberger agrees. "There is an extra zeal on the part
of one's neighbors. There's so much emphasis on reporting anything
suspicious, neighbor informing on neighbor. I'm sure it all spurs the cops
on just a bit more. But as it is, they're pretty eager to bust people for
pot," he said.

Med-pot activist, patient, and retired surgeon Dr. Tom O'Connell told
Cannabis Culture: "When you factor in things like the
drugs-equals-terrorism ads, there is increased vigilance. It turns a lot of
security personnel into eager beavers, and even driving in your car isn't
that safe.

"One problem you have with cannabis is the lack of factual information.
There's the attitude that people who use pot are still despised. And now
with the war on, it's very likely that using pot is associated with
dissent, with the peace movement and opposition to the war all those pot
heads, hippies and whiny radicals."

Whether currently much employed against reefer or not, the new legal regime
manifests its intent in ways both chilling and ridiculous. As to the
latter, consider, says Privacy International, that the Washington, DC
conference center now requires patrons to show picture ID before entering
the food court.

Less ridiculous, according to an outfit called Freedom to Tinker, is the
legislation pending in Massachusetts and Texas that would ban any
technologies that "concealed the origin or destination of any
communication" from your Internet service provider. Both encrypted emails
that concealed the origins of incoming and outgoing email and most security
firewalls designed to flag and prevent external snooping in computers would
be outlawed.

States of Fear

Some of the information sweeps rely on nothing more high-tech than the
threat of a night in jail and all the ancillary hassles that implies.
Anti-war protesters caught up in police sweeps in New York in February and
March were questioned on their political affiliations, participation in
past protest, where they worked and even where they went to college.

The National Lawyers Guild said that Newsday indicated that arrested
protesters were quizzed on their views of Israel, Palestinians, and 9/11.
According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the information was
entered on a form carrying a federal seal. Those who resisted such
intrusive questioning were told they couldn't be processed and would have
to spend the night in jail.

Referring to the questioning as "debriefing," not "interrogation," the New
York Police Department maintained there was no need for legal
representation. Separately, a federal judge relaxed decades-old
restrictions on New York cops' surveillance of political groups prior to
any arrest.

In Pennsylvania, according to a Penn State student publication, anyone
whose ID is checked while buying beer or liquor has his particulars,
including what he bought, entered in a state database that's accessible by
police. Used in every liquor store in the state, the ID scanners are
supposedly easier to use than actually looking at someone's ID and figuring
out whether they're old enough to buy beer. So your alcohol consumption is
recorded for who knows how long and for what purpose. Perhaps child custody
cases down the road?

The current airline passenger screening protocol, which flags people paying
in cash or traveling one way or showing up late - or showing up early for
that matter - will likely soon be replaced by the proposed Computer
Assisted Passenger Pre-screening.

Civil Libertarian and drug reform advocate John Gilmore attempted to fly
without presenting identification and was turned away at both the San
Francisco and Oakland airports. He subsequently sued Attorney General John
Ashcroft in federal court in California on several grounds, including
discrimination against travelers who choose anonymity.

Gilmore's attorney, Bill Simpich, stated that under the proposed
computerized screening, the government will search, "in a stew of databases
like credit records, previous travel history, criminal records, motor
vehicle records, banks, web searches, and companies that collect personal
information from consumer transactions. Your life history will be gathered
and scanned, using secret criteria, whenever you book a flight or arrive at
an airport."

The ACLU's Graham Boyd points to the increasing use of ion scanners which
target microscopic particles. Such devices are used in prisons to search
for drugs and in airports to check for explosives. They're common, said
Boyd, but what's coming next is the low-dose radiation X-ray that allows
operators to see through clothes. They're controversial not only because of
concern whether the radiation might prove unhealthy to frequent flyers, but
also due to privacy concerns "since you more or less can make out
anatomical features."

Summing up the current atmosphere, defense attorney Steinborn minced no
words: "Law enforcement has been turned over to a right-wing Christian
cabal, with prayer meetings being held at the Justice Department.

"Bush has figured out what Hitler did in the 30s," added Steinborn. "You
label the enemy as evil and to disagree brands you a traitor."

Civic Resistance

Along with taking it to the streets, carrying signs, and having the number
of demonstrators grossly miscounted by the mainstream press, pockets of
resistance are springing up around the country.

In Palo Alto, California, the Utopian Movement has helped steer the Human
Relations Commission, a city council advisory board, to consider a
resolution that the city of Palo Alto will not cooperate with federal
authorities pursuing unconstitutional aims. That includes federal officials
commandeering local police during red alerts.

Ron Crickenberger, political director of the Libertarian Party, told
Cannabis Culture that his party has made similar efforts. In conjunction
with the ACLU, they have helped the passage of 100 city and county
commission resolutions that denounce the Patriot Act, and direct local
police to "not cooperate" with federal officials implementing it.

City councils which have passed resolutions against the Patriot Act include
the Colorado cities of Boulder and Denver, the Massachusetts cities of
Cambridge, Northampton and Amherst, plus Berkeley, California, Ann Arbor,
Michigan, and the town of Carrboro, North Carolina.

As to the drug reform movement specifically, Gieringer pointed to
November's electoral defeats on state ballot initiatives in Ohio and
Nevada, along with the failure of the recent well-organized campaign to
liberalize marijuana laws in the town of Columbia, MO. He said, "I don't
sense we have a lot of momentum right now. It's a tough year, no?"


Pubdate: Fri, 1 Aug 2003
Source: Cannabis Culture
Copyright: 2003, Cannabis Culture, redistributed by MAP by permission
Contact: ccmag@cannabisculture.com
Website: Cannabis Culture | Marijuana Magazine