by Jack Ballinger
June 27, 2003
After watching a portion of one of President Bush's latest speeches, I suffered from a surfeit of "Freedom". As in almost every speech since 9/11/01, he tells us that the terrorists are fighting us due to our "Freedom." It is to the point now that it seems that even if he just forgets a line in a speech he inserts "They hate us because of our FREEDOMS!" or "They attacked us because of our FREEDOM!" (He usually shouts the "FREEDOMS!" part.)
With our July 4th celebration of Independence Day just days away, President Bush has given us some new freedoms we Americans can now call our own. As these new "FREEDOMS” didn't exist even two years ago and therefore can't be found in any of our schools' Civics texts, it is important that they be acknowledged as part of what makes our country what it is today.
I and a few friends (Bob Gaiek, Nancy Mere, Barbie Ballinger and some others who, due to some of these new FREEDOMS, have chosen to remain VERY anonymous!) have tried to place them into this lengthy, but far from comprehensive list.
For example, we now have new FREEDOMS in America, including:
FREEDOM to be detained in America without charge:
Hundreds, if not thousands (the Justice Dept. won't even tell us how many) of innocent Arabs are now FREE to sit in cells in America, without even being charged with a crime.
Example: from Washington Post at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A28469-2003Jun24.html:
Today, the superior court judge who took the secret evidence last November unsealed the hearing transcript, revealing that the allegations were based largely on inaccurate information that Atriss and his lawyer said they could have rebutted, if only they had been allowed to see it.
“We are glad to expose these transcripts for what they are -- slanderous, hearsay, double- and triple-hearsay, unsubstantiated allegations," said attorney Miles Feinstein, with Atriss at his side in his law office. "It illustrates the dangers and irreparable harm that comes from secret evidence."
FREEDOM to be tortured in America:
Many of those are FREE to reside in cells under 24/7 bright lights with music blaring, in an effort to present them with both "sleep deprivation" and "sensory overload"
"A captive might be subjected to extreme heat or cold, deprived of light or dark, made to squat in painful positions, questioned and fed at irregular intervals, kept awake for hours on end. Most important is confinement in isolation, divorced from all that is familiar." (See TIME magazine at:
FREEDOM to be constantly interrogated in America:
From the UK Independent at
Privately, the Americans admit that torture, or something very like it, is going on at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, where they are holding an unknown number of suspected terrorists.
Al-Qa'ida and Taliban prisoners inside this secret CIA interrogation centre - in a cluster of metal shipping-containers protected by a triple layer of concertinaed wire - are subjected to a variety of practices. They are kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-painted goggles. They are bound in awkward, painful positions. They are deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights. They are sometimes beaten on capture, and painkillers are withheld.
The interrogators call these "stress and duress" techniques, which one former US intelligence officer has dubbed "torture-lite". Sometimes there is nothing "lite" about the end results. The US military has announced that a criminal investigation has begun into the case of two prisoners who died after beatings at Bagram. More covertly, other terrorist suspects have been "rendered" into the hands of various foreign intelligence services known to have less fastidious records on the use of torture.
What is perhaps most disturbing about all this is that the US officials who have leaked the information have not done so out of a need to expose something that they see as shameful. On the contrary, they have made it clear that they wanted the world to know what is going on because they feel it is justified.
FREEDOM to be left entirely alone in America:
At the same time, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/) charged in a report released here Wednesday that about one- third of all children in the custody of U.S. immigration authorities spend at least some time in jail-like facilities designed to hold young offenders, where they may be subjected to shackling, strip searches, solitary confinement, and verbal abuse from guards and other detainees.
The Amnesty report also cited cases in which child detainees have been transferred to adult facilities on the basis of a dental exam. "The next morning, they told me I was going a better place, but they were lying," said one girl identified as Fantis S., a former child detainee from West Africa, who spoke at Wednesday's press conference. "They chained and handcuffed me and took me to the adult prison in York, Pennsylvania. There, they strip-searched me, made me put on an orange jump suit and cut off all my hair, just like a criminal." In fact, Fantis was 16 years old at the time, as reflected in the documentation she carried with her when she was detained.
FREEDOM (from our Supreme Court) to scream in vain in America:
From Find Law at: http://writ.news.findlaw.com/lazarus/20030612.html
The Chavez Case's Facts
"The Chavez case presented the Court with an unusually troubling set of facts. In the midst of a drug investigation, two police officers stopped a passing bicyclist, Oliverio Martinez, made him lie prone on the street, and conducted a pat-down search. They found a knife.
An altercation ensued (exactly why is disputed). One of the officers shot Martinez several times, including in the face - severely injuring both eyes. A patrol supervisor, Ben Chavez, arrived on the scene. Chavez accompanied Martinez to the hospital.
At the hospital, Martinez was screaming in pain and moving in and out of consciousness. Indeed, he was so disoriented that he could not distinguish Chavez from the medical personnel. The audiotape lodged with the court showed that Martinez was in excruciating pain, and suffered from an intense fear that he might be dying.
Nonetheless, Chavez began to interrogate Martinez. Martinez begged for medical attention and tried to put off the questioning. Meanwhile, Chavez made no effort to dispel Martinez's perception that he would not receive medical treatment until he responded."
By the way, Chavez was NEVER even charged with anything!
FREEDOM of information in America:
The names of those prisoners can't be obtained, even by our nation's news media or human right's groups using our (ironically named) Freedom Of Information Act, as long as the Justice Dept.:
1) proves to the satisfaction of a court that the detainee is the perpetrator of a crime.
2) proves to a court that the detainee is a member of Al Queda.
3) proves to a court that the detainee has given material support to Al Queda.
4) Says no!
If you chose anything other than #4, you are so pre-9/11!
FREEDOM to assassinate:
The government has granted the FREEDOM to assassinate to our CIA and military personnel oversees. Thus far, the attempts to assassinate Saddam have led to other people's death, but as they were Arabs anyway, we don't consider the assassinations to be troubling.
FREEDOM to retaliate against even helpful "volunteers". . . if they're Arabs in America:
From the NY Times at:
"More than 13,000 of the Arab and Muslim men who came forward earlier this year to register with immigration authorities -- roughly 16 percent of the total -- may now face deportation, government officials say.
Only a handful have been linked to terrorism. But of the 82,000 men older than 16 who registered, more than 13,000 have been found to be living in this country illegally, officials say.
Many Arabs who voluntarily come forward to provide info and help our government foil future terrorist attacks are summarily deported for minor immigration violations"
FREEDOM to discriminate in handling of immigrants in America:
White immigrants (Russian, Irish, Ukrainian etc.) with more serious immigration violations serve drinks in my local taverns and earn good salaries in local construction.
FREEDOM to change the rules of justice in America:
From the NY Times at: http://nytimes.com/2003/06/25/politics/25TERR.html
"Administration officials said the decision to imprison the student, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, in a brig in South Carolina on Monday, less than a month before he was scheduled to go on trial in a federal court in Illinois, was intended in part to try to cull more information from him about possible links to Al Qaeda. That avenue would probably have been foreclosed if Mr. Marri's case had gone to trial next month."
From Scoop -New Zealand at
"While the US has designated others as 'enemy combatants' Padilla's case is particularly troubling as he was arrested on suspicion of a crime which would clearly place him within the jurisdiction of the ordinary criminal justice system. If his detention is upheld, the government could potentially hold any criminal suspect associated with an alleged terrorist group in military custody for an indefinite period, with none of the usual safeguards in the criminal system," Amnesty International said.
FREEDOM to snoop PLUS FREEDOM to arrest pesky Librarians in America:
The Government is now FREE, through a "Secret Court", to force Librarians to submit lists of all reading materials any American has requested, even if that American has been charged with nothing.
From the Arizona Summer Wildcat at:
"Just as was needed before the Act was passed, the FBI needs a search warrant from a judge in order to obtain this information. However, under the new law, the warrant is obtained through a secret court. After the information is gathered, a gag order is imposed on the librarian, meaning he or she cannot tell anyone, including the patron being investigated and superior employees, anything about the search."
However, we learn from Francis Volpe from The Sentinel at: http://www.cumberlink.com/articles/2003/06/25/editorial/francis_volpe/volpe01.txt
"But certainly investigators must go before a judge for authority to use these powers? Well, kinda. Seems all the government has to do is write a brief note to a judge saying that whatever it is it's doing, it's legal. If this provision were in force 30 years ago, we might never have heard of the Watergate conspirators.
By the way, if you decide to write a letter to the editor about these issues, that's enough for the feds to start a file on you."
FREEDOM to snoop 2 in America:
The Government is now FREE to demand an innocent American's personal medical records, with the same minimal judicial oversight mentioned in snoop 1.
FREEDOM to snoop 3 in America:
The Government is now FREE to tap Innocent American's phones, with the same minimal judicial oversight mentioned in snoop 1.
FREEDOM to remove worker's rights in America:
The Government is now seeking the FREEDOM to end collective bargaining for most of the government employees.
FREEDOM to begin economic slavery in America:
The Government is now seeking the FREEDOM to force workers to work overtime at straight time rates.
From the NY Times at: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Overtime-Pay.html
"More than 8 million professionals would lose their overtime pay under a Bush administration proposal to change the types of jobs that must receive more money for extra work, says a study by a union-supported think tank."
"In 78 job classifications that the group examined out of 257 white-collar occupations, an estimated 8 million workers would lose their right to overtime pay. Another 1.3 million people would lose overtime pay under the proposed salary test that exempts all nonmanual workers earning $65,000 or more, regardless of their duties."
FREEDOM to suffer without prescribed medication in America:
From the NY Times at: http://nytimes.com/2003/06/25/national/25MEDI.html
WASHINGTON, June 24 - The Senate rejected a Democratic effort today to make a new Medicare drug benefit more generous by closing a substantial gap in coverage for elderly people with high drug costs.
FREEDOM to discriminate in hiring based on a person's religion or sexual orientation in America:
From the Washington Post at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A28678-2003Jun24?language=printer
President Bush called on Congress yesterday to make it easier for federally funded religious groups to base their hiring decisions on a job candidate's religion and sexual orientation.
FREEDOM from global treaties in America:
One of President Bush's first acts was to pull back from President Clinton's backing of the Kyoto Treaty on the environment.
We all know how we breached UN treaties and the Geneva Convention accords with our First Strike invasion of Iraq.
FREEDOM from competitive bids in America:
The Bush Administration has handed out Billion$ in construction contracts to corporations that are donor friendly, including Halliburton, where Dick Cheney was the CEO and from whom he still receives more than $1 million dollars each year.
From the Boston Globe at;
While the Army delays its decision, the government cost of the noncompetitive work awarded to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company is ballooning. The total as of last week was $184.7 million, up from $76.7 million a month ago.
Worldcom/MCI, who we remember for accounting woes that caused the loss of $175 BILLION DOLLARS in shareholder wealth, is another beneficiary of the Bush Admin/taxpayer generosity.
From the Boston Globe at: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/174/business/MCI_s_access_to_US_deals_assailed+.shtml
"One deal raising particular questions is a contract to build a 19-tower, 10,000-phone wireless network for reconstruction officials and aid workers in Baghdad, a contract estimated to be worth $20 million to $40 million. MCI has never built a similar network in the Unitd States. Some other carriers have said they never even heard the Iraq contract was available before MCI won it."
FREEDOM to extort $ and jobs in America:
from Washington Post at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A33669-2003Jun25?language=printer
"Nearly a decade after Republicans launched a campaign to oust Democrats from top lobbying jobs in Washington, sometimes through intimidation and private threats, they are seizing a significant number of the most influential positions at trade associations and corporate government affairs offices -- and reaping big financial rewards."
"Late last year, Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio) and his top aides pressured the Investment Company Institute, a consortium of mutual fund companies, to push aside Julie Domenick as its top lobbyist. Oxley's staff suggested to industry officials that a congressional probe of the mutual fund industry might ease up if ICI complied."
The most recent proof of this Freedom is the Bush Administration's forcing of an editing out of a finding by it's own scientists on Global Warming;
From the NY Times report: EPA paper's section on global warming sharply abridged By Andrew C. Revkin and Katharine Q. Seelye:
"The draft of a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures, with changes sought by the White House, was given to the New York Times on Wednesday by a former EPA official, along with earlier drafts and an internal memo in which some agency officials protested the changes."
The combination of major intelligence problems and Administration negligence that helped enable the 9/11 horror has recently caused the Bush Administration to frantically attempt to add one more important new FREEDOM to this list. Only this time, unlike their much-heralded PATRIOT Act that brought many of the FREEDOMS above, this new FREEDOM will not be camouflaged as a tool to aid in uncovering any wrongdoing.
Ironically, this FREEDOM will be used to allow wrongdoing to remain hidden.
For you see, the Bush Administration desires FREEDOM . . . from Investigation!
(Meanwhile, back here in Reality Central, I'm guessing that at the rate we're actually losing and abusing the true, American FREEDOMS, if Bush is right those freedom-hating terrorists should soon be sending us love notes.)
Jack Ballinger is a Vietnam Veteran, with a Bronze Star, 2 Air Medals, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB) and a bunch of other pretty military ribbons. “I was Honorably Discharged in 1971. Both of my grandfathers fought in WWI, and both my father and my father-in-law were Marines in WWII.” He can be contacted at: NYCHASpotlight@netscape.net