December 2007 Archives
Pass the Freedom Fries! The French are still filmed, monitored and intercepted less than we are, but barely. Their status also "deteriorated" in 2007.
The U.S. has been downgraded from "Extensive Surveillance Society" to "Endemic Surveillance Society," according to Privacy International's 2007 International Privacy Ranking released on Friday. We now share the "Endemic" distinction with China, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UK. I should have expected the following, really, after recently letting go of my email privacy delusions:
In terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines.It's worth noting that Canadian and EU papers have reported on this, but I have yet to find coverage in a U.S. newspaper. It's up to you and me to let our friends and family and presidential candidates know that we rank at the bottom when it comes to:
Now we see language from the Homegrown Terrorism Act popping up in last Friday's seemingly strategically timed plea agreements from two men who were caught in a Los Angeles-area terror plot. This is not incredibly surprising, given that this case supposedly inspired the Act. But we have to wonder if it's a coincidence that the pleas are being entered now, while we await Senate debate on the Act. From a Justice Department press release:
In plea agreements filed this morning and court proceedings conducted this morning in United States District Court in Santa Ana, James and Washington admitted that they conspired “to levy war against the government of the United States through terrorism, and to oppose by force the authority of the United States government.”Isn't enough that these men were caught in a heinous terrorist plot? That should put them safely away. Why the need to get them to use language about opposing the government's authority? What was their incentive to do so?
Further, what is "force?" Aren't we obligated as patriotic citizens to constantly question our government's authority? Like the suffragists on hunger strikes who were force-fed in prison? Like Civil Rights marchers? From the bill:
If you're trying to convince Europeans to create an international fingerprint and personal-data screening database, it's international. If you want to persuade a domestic audience to nationally standardize drivers licenses, it's domestic.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said this two weeks ago when addressing a European audience about the ways they would need to give up their anonymity when traveling to the United States:
Now Reuters reports in a story entitled U.S. Says Homegrown Attack Poses Biggest Risk:
The United States faces a lower risk of homegrown terrorism than Europe and should concentrate efforts on developing a global system of anti-terrorist screening at airports and borders, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday.
When asked whether the United States considered a homegrown attack likely — the prevailing pattern in Britain, where legally-residing extremists have plotted or committed a string of attacks since 2005 — Chertoff said America needed to make screening of international travelers its most logical priority.
"We have less of a problem with homegrown terrorism than in Europe. That's not to say we don't have a problem," he said, noting arrests in May of six foreign-born U.S. residents on suspicion of plotting to attack the Fort Dix army base.
"So I don't mean to suggest that the exclusive remedy is preventing bad people from getting into the United States ... but that is the point of their greatest vulnerability," he said.
The United States faces a heightened threat of terrorist attack "for the foreseeable future" but any attack will likely be homegrown, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Wednesday...
"There's probably a greater risk in terms of likelihood from a homegrown attack than from a massive international attack," he added.
Chertoff described that sort of "homegrown" attack as a single person or small group of people living in the United States who were "recruited" on the Internet and had pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
So, what's going on? Why the different assessments? Could Chertoff's domestic rhetoric have anything to do with the likely soon-to-be-debated Homegrown Terrorism Bill?
This theme for 2008, “Dignity and justice for all of us,” reinforces the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a commitment to universal dignity and justice. It is not a luxury or a wish-list. The UDHR and its core values, inherent human dignity, non-discrimination, equality, fairness and universality, apply to everyone, everywhere and always. The Declaration is universal, enduring and vibrant, and it concerns us all.
Since its adoption in 1948, the Declaration has been and continues to be a source of inspiration for national and international efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.
To say I don't see the necessity of this bill at all is an understatement. But he clearly isn't dismissing it entirely. His reply primarily focused on my surveillance concerns. Since it sounds like he will fight for a less frightening version I will write again with an emphasis on the vague definition of "force," and the dangers of defining ideologically based violence, integrating comments from Bill and the anonymous commenter here.
What do you think? What are your Senators saying? What next?
Thank you for taking the time to contact me about S. 1959, the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. I have serious privacy concerns about this bill and appreciate your input, as it is a critical part of making sure the laws we pass in the Senate reflect the priorities we share as Montanans.
The stated goal of the Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act is to prevent terrorism by individuals born, raised, or based and operating primarily in the United States. Ideally, this bill would protect our civil rights and liberties while helping the Department of Homeland Security work to protect us against ideologically-based violence by these homegrown terrorists.
None of us wants to see more horrific acts of violence. On the other hand, we don't want to waste our time with redundant measures that likely won't prevent them, but will threaten the First Amendment.
I sent this to Sens. Tester and Baucus today. Adapt it as you wish!
Dear Senator Baucus,
I am gravely concerned about S 1959, the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act. I am troubled by the overly vague language and worried that in practice it will criminalize non-violent forms of dissent and stifle freedom of speech.
S 1959 has the potential to be used to target citizens who disagree with whichever administration is currently in power or who oppose powerful corporate interests. Most of the "home grown" terror we have seen has originated from white, Christian anti-abortionists. However, we know from the FOIA documents released so far that most of those targeted for surveillance by the current administration have been anti-war activists. Additionally, we have seen concerted efforts to label property destroying/anti-development extremists "terrorists" and tie mainstream environmental groups to them.
Surveillance is endemic in our society -- we have been labeled one of the world's top surveillance societies by Privacy International. Do we need to set up another commission to decide who to watch?
I look forward to hearing your position on this bill.