October 2007 Archives

Supporting Senators who Challenge Mukasey on Torture

tuw_elev1.jpgBefore today I had never written to a Senator who wasn't my own. But I liked the quotes from Senators Durbin and Leahy in this NY Times article. The Attorney General nominee, Judge Michael B. Mukasey, has performed verbal gymnastics around the legality of the waterboarding torture technique.

“I remain very concerned that Judge Mukasey finds himself unable to state unequivocally that waterboarding is illegal and below the standards and values of the United States,” Mr. Leahy, of Vermont, said in a statement.

Another Democrat, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, said Mr. Mukasey had “spent four pages responding and still didn’t provide an answer” to the question, “Is waterboarding illegal?”

“Judge Mukasey makes the point that in the law, precision matters,” Mr. Durbin said. “So do honesty and openness. And on those counts, he falls far short.”

I let the Senators know that I appreciate their tenacity, and that it would be comforting to have an Attorney General whose job was to uphold the law rather than massage it to ensure that administration officials avoid future war crimes convictions. Knowing we care can only strenghten their spines, right?

~~ Senate Judiciary Committee

Giving Away "The End of America"

End of America.jpgOf course we have goodies for trick-or-treaters this Halloween week, but I'm also giving away books.

So far, around five of fifteen copies of the The End of America have been handed off to friends and acquaintances. Fifteen was what I could afford now, but thanks to a donation from my lovely mom ten more are on the way! It's a quick and dirty read -- I ask recipients to either pass it on or return it to me so I can give it to someone else.

If you want to get vital information into your friends' hands, copies are on sale at Amazon for only $8.37 at this moment. If you link through this page to shop, a portion of your purchase goes to Amnesty International.

~~ The End of America 
Prison.jpgThis week I wrote this letter to the editor of my local paper, The Missoulian. True, Ron Paul is generally wacky, but I still admire his American Freedom Agenda Act and wanted to draw attention to it. Since I live in a conservative area of the country (though a liberal part of Montana), it seemed important to elaborate on potential  ramifications of the Military Commissions Act for those who might not otherwise be alarmed.

Support bill revoking ‘combatant' status

If the president names you an “enemy combatant,” you become one just because he or she says so. This means that, at this moment, you or any other U.S. citizen could legally be locked up without charge or the right to an attorney. Shocking, isn't it? And fundamentally un-American; the kind of thing that would make the founders turn over in their graves.

A provision in the Military Commissions Act gave the president this unprecedented power a little over a year ago. Though we might like to think “enemy combatant” status would only be conferred upon U.S. citizens with verifiable terrorist ties, are we willing to allow our basic rights to be tossed out the window on that gamble?

Creepy communications technology realities

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250px-Panopticon.jpgEver since I started using a cell phone, I've loved the sense of security it gives me. If I'm late or lost, I can call my dinner companion or a friendly operator. If the car breaks down, or there's another emergency, I have a lifeline in my purse.

GPS navigation has appealed for similar safety and security reasons. That woman on the OnStar commercials, who is so relieved when she's able to get help from a remote customer service god after she locks herself out of her car, is someone most of us would tend to identify with.

But there are ramifications to these technologies that we haven't discussed openly. We can assume that many who have been targeted as a result of anti-war or anti-administration affiliation have endured surveillance of the following varieties as an aspect of the widespread warrantless wiretapping abuse.
Did you know that law enforcement officials can demand that your cell phone company activate the microphone in your phone remotely? Your cell then becomes a roving microphone recording events around you whether or not the phone is on.  Additionally, cell phones track your location through communication with the nearest tower. As long as you have it with you and turned on, your location can be identified.

We're a top surveillance society?

birdseye-cutout.jpg"Home of the free"? Try "A little freer than Singapore".

I don't see any evidence on the news or in my daily interactions that most U.S. residents realize that ours is one of the top surveillance states in the developed world. I didn't know it myself until I stumbled upon  a 2006 Privacy International report christening us an "Extensive Surveillance Society", a distinction we share with Thailand and the Philippines.  We're just behind China, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia and the U.K., all of which are "Endemic Surveillance Societies."

Don't you think if more us knew we were living in such a relatively restrictive society, we would be demanding our privacy back? The French are freer than we are, for goodness sake!  Shouldn't the Freedom Fries demographic be up in arms?

~~ Privacy International

Reading The End of America

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End of America.jpgNaomi Wolf's The End of America is an essential tool. Every U.S. resident should read it. Yes, it has flaws, but they hardly diminish the book's impact. Please read it. ASAP. I finished it over the weekend: 155 pages and not very dense.

One of the great things about Wolf's call-to-action pamphlet is that, without succumbing to conspiracy theory or hyperbole, it paints a dire picture of the ways our civil liberties have been trampled in the last six years. Rhetorical comparisons between Bush and Hitler have always irritated me -- there's no quicker way to lose credibility than to throw the world "fascist" around willy-nilly. Wolf is careful, however. She compares ours with societies that have experienced "fascist shifts," and the "echoes" she identifies are quite resonant. Whether or not the steps taken by the Bush administration have been deliberate, we should be in a state of alarm.

To get a quick look at ten steps that fascist regimes take, and how our administration's actions fit, take a gander at this April Guardian article.

I do think that The End of America would have a broader appeal if it acknowledged explicitly from the outset that Americans have not experienced "liberty" equally. Noting the inequalities that were built into the Constitution, the run of the mill rights violations that are connected to racial and economic disparity, and the way in which the FBI has historically violated individuals' rights as a matter of practice would not diminish her argument.

Really, Wolf's is the privileged perspective of someone who (like yours truly) has always taken her rights for granted. But the fact of her alarm is telling. If an elite, white, former Rhodes Scholar is gravely concerned about her own basic liberties, the possibility of an America truly committed to justice and equality may truly be on the wane.

Read it!

~~ The End of America
phpk1LJznPM.jpgI've always believed in the principles of democracy, but I never thought it was my job to work for them. Plus, our system seemed so rigged by racism, sexism and injustice that it was hard to get in touch with the vitality and potential of our founding ideals.

Like hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents, my privacy and other basic rights have been severely violated by the current administration. I have had a sneak preview of how dismal everyday life could become for all of us if we don't work hard and now to salvage our civil liberties; it has frightened and transformed me.

This civil liberties emergency has turned me into a new type of citizen: one who spends six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating  the preservation of our basic liberties. I am still the law-abiding "good citizen" who works, shops too much, sometimes volunteers, keeps up with current events, cleans the house and watches too much TV. But I now spend at least one hour six hours each week as an active and engaged citizen.

After thinking about how my attitude has shifted, I've come to the conclusion that to me being an American basically meant having the freedom to pursue my vocation and spend my leisure time how I chose, and not having to be saddled with the nuts and bolts of policy. Freedom meant generally not having to bother. I would become intensely involved if something like the Iraq war arose, but feeling that my voice had little influence made me apathetic. Really, because I'm white and economically secure, and haven't suffered the injustices that many Americans experience daily, I took my liberty for granted.

I hope you'll join me as I figure out what this new type of citizenship is like!


Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.