looks like Ann Coulter may get her way.
Like many on the extreme right, Ms. Coulter considers those of us engaged in
dissent against the actions of the government to be "either
traitors or idiots." Coulter said as much in her screed,
Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror. "The myth of
'McCarthyism' is the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times," writes Coulter.
"McCarthy was not tilting at windmills. Soviet spies in the government were
not a figment of right-wing imaginations."
No doubt Coulter believes AG Ashcroft and the Bush federal judiciary is not
"tilting at windmills," either. It is not communists in the State Department
they are going after, but antiwar and environmental activists. In this
particular instance, antiwar activists attending a forum held at a private
university in Iowa.
Imagine Ms. Coulter's ear-to-ear smirk.
Last week a federal judge ordered Drake University to turn over "all
documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting,
and all documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually
attended the meeting," according to the
Associated Press. In addition to documents listing attendance at the
forum, the subpoena orders the university to cough up all records relating
to the local chapter of the
National Lawyers Guild. The leader of the
Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the
Iowa Peace Network, a member
of the Catholic Worker House, and an antiwar activist who visited Iraq in
2002, was also served a subpoena.
If not for the fact the Associated Press received a copy of the Drake
subpoena, news of this inquisition would have remained secret. The judge has
issued a gag order forbidding school officials from discussing the subpoena.
"Several officials of Drake, a private university with about 5,000 students,
refused to comment Friday, including school spokeswoman Andrea McDonough,"
reports Ryan J. Foley of the Associated Press. "She referred questions to a
lawyer representing the school, Steve Serck, who also would not comment."
"This is exactly what people feared would happen," remarked Brian Terrell of
the Catholic Peace Ministry. "The civil liberties of everyone in this
country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very important on
how things are going to happen in this country from now on."
So, what illegality precipitated the intervention of a federal judge, the
formation of a grand jury, and the issuance of subpoenas? An isolated
instance of non-violent civil disobedience during a rally following the
forum. A Grinnell College librarian went limp upon arrest. She was charged
with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer. How passively resisting arrest
may be considered "assault" remains unexplained. Why a grand jury needs to
be convened and a gag order issued in response also remains unexplained. And
Mark Smith, a lobbyist for the Washington-based
American Association of
University Professors, told the Associated Press he believes the case
heralds a return of the infamous red squads used against antiwar activists
during the Vietnam War.
In May 2002, AG Ashcroft set the stage for a return of
red squads and the abuses of the
COINTELPRO era. Ashcroft removed the
"competitive advantage" he claimed terrorists enjoyed. In other words,
the "competitive advantage" of Americans exercising their constitutional
rights under the First Amendment.
According to Ashcroft, the First Amendment throws "bureaucratic,
organizational, and operational restrictions and structures" in the way of
FBI agents attempting to do "their jobs effectively."
More specifically, Ashcroft's removal of "operational restrictions" may
allow the FBI to once again use
agents-provocateurs, foment violence between dissident groups, ruin the
lives of individual activists, and frame people for serious crimes, the
sort of things the FBI did under COINTELPRO. Since the
Patriot Act allows for unprecedented
secrecy, we have no way of knowing what the FBI is doing. If history is
any indication, they are going after Bush's enemies.
Last November, however, evidence of COINTELPRO-like activity on the part of
the FBI surfaced when a
memorandum was publicized indicating the FBI had urged
local law enforcement to snoop on the organizational efforts of antiwar
groups in Washington and San Francisco prior to demonstrations in
opposition to Bush's impending invasion of Iraq.
"The FBI is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more
than lawful protest and dissent,"
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties
Union, warned at the time. "The line between terrorism and legitimate civil
disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we're
going back to the days of Hoover [and
the FBI regards as potential terrorism strikes me as civil disobedience."
Civil disobedience is now vigorously prosecuted and severely punished by
Ashcroft's Justice Department.
For instance, last July the Justice Department filed criminal charges in
Miami federal court against the entire
Greenpeace organization under an obscure 1872 law originally intended to end
the practice of "sailor-mongering." Greenpeace activists had boarded a
commercial ship off the coast of Florida in April 2002. The ship was
transporting mahogany illegally exported from Brazil's Amazon rainforest.
The activists unfurled a banner stating: "President Bush, Stop Illegal
Logging." It was an act of civil disobedience -- trespassing on private
property -- but so outraged was Ashcroft and the Justice Department they
reached into the distant past to find an unrelated and absurd law and used
it against Greenpeace. "If the prosecution succeeds, peaceful public protest
-- an essential American tradition from colonial times to the civil rights
movement and beyond -- may become yet another casualty of Mr. Ashcroft's
attack on civil liberties," writes
John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA.
The Ashcroft and Justice Department plan is to prosecute an entire
organization. "Arrested by federal authorities, the individuals involved
took their lumps; they pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge,"
Passacantando explains. "But now, prosecutors want much more. Instead of
thanking Greenpeace for work that promotes President Bush's stated goal of
stopping illegal logging, and instead of prosecuting the smugglers, the
Justice Department wants to brand Greenpeace a criminal operation." In
December, a Federal District Court in Miami slated the case to be tried in
May 2004, unless a Greenpeace motion to dismiss is granted.
The Drake University subpoenas and the Greenpeace case are two examples of
the Bushite war on civil liberty, particularly the exercise of the
First Amendment in opposition to a growing paroxysm of neocon violence and
organized mass murder.
It is certainly no mistake the Ministry of Homeland Security issued a
warning in May 2003 for local police to be on the lookout for any American
"expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government."
Local police now serve as
Is it mere happenstance the Justice Department drafted the so-called
Domestic Security Enhancement Act (DSEA) of 2003, otherwise known as
Patriot Act II? DSEA would automatically deny bail for persons accused of
"terrorism-related crimes," reversing the ordinary common law
burden of proof principle. Such "terrorism-related crimes" include civil
disobedience. DSEA was sidelined due to unfavorable reaction after a working
draft was leaked, but more than a few experts believe it will eventually be
adopted in one form or another.
"Patriot Act II would deem civil disobedience a felony," writes
Kevin Merickel of the Daily Trojan, a newspaper published by the
University of Southern California. "Such civil disobedience would include
nonviolent demonstrations or protests. The act would consider such behavior
as threatening to human life, and a charge could be punishable by death."
Execution of dissidents convicted of civil disobedience may seem a bit
far-fetched. Nonetheless, last year Ashcroft wanted three elderly nuns sent
to prison for 30 years for
spray-painting six crosses on a concrete silo dome with their own blood at a
remote Minuteman III nuclear missile site in Weld County, Colorado. In
essence, Ashcroft was asking for a death sentence.
a federal court sentenced Kathy Kelly, co-founder of Voices in the
Wilderness and three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, to prison for the
egregious crime of trespassing the property of the Ft. Benning military base
in November of 2003. Kelly was protesting against the Americas/Western
Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (aka the School of the
Americas, or more appropriately the
School of Assassins
or the School of Coups).
In addition to Kelly, 27 other activists -- from dangerous organizations
such as the
Jesuit Volunteers International -- were sentenced last month to federal
prison for trespassing a terrorist training camp in Georgia that would make
Osama bin Laden envious.
"The timing of the [Drake University] investigation may be a not-so-subtle
warning to those planning to participate in the March 20, 2004 anti-war
Elaine Cassel for Civil Liberties Watch. "Those who do protest better be
prepared to pay with their freedom."
And that's exactly what those on the far right such as Ann Coulter hope for
-- antiwar "traitors" made to "pay with their freedom" for their "hate
America" subversion and pernicious, terrorist-friendly treason.
Is it possible Richard Perle, David Frum, Ann Coulter, Daniel Pipes, David
Horowitz, and other far right types believe it was treasonous subversion
when civil rights activists staged sit-ins at lunch counters and freedom
rides? Was "hate America" subversion in the air when activists in the
women's movement for the right to vote in the late 1880s participated in
silent vigils, mass demonstrations, and hunger strikes? Or what about the
nonviolent strikers of the Industrial Workers of the World free speech
confrontations, the Congress of Industrial Organizations sit-down strikes
from 1935-1937 in auto plants involving 400,000 people?
If Coulter had been around in 1846, is it possible she would have called for
Henry David Thoreau to spend more than one night in jail for refusing to pay
his poll tax in opposition to slavery? Is it possible she would have
considered his essay
"On the Duty
of Civil Disobedience" seditious, a tract written by either a traitor or
Coulter and crew would likely find such comparisons ludicrous. For them, the
antiwar movement consists primarily of embittered "communists," America
haters from the likes of
(Act Now to Stop War & End Racism), or black-clad
anarchists fond of breaking windows and trashing bank lobbies.
In fact, the vast majority of people opposed to the invasion of Iraq are
non-violent, if occasionally civilly disobedient Americans who find the
neocon plan for non-stop mass murder and invasions of perpetual conquest
morally repugnant. They understand, even if Richard Perle does not, that
killing thousands of Iraqi and Afghani citizens does not prevent terrorism.
For Coulter and her ideological cohorts, opposition to war is nothing short
of inexcusable treason, a "reflection of the growth of a treacherous
anti-American radicalism," as the neocon proselyte
Horowitz would have it. As the Drake University and Greenpeace cases
demonstrate, Bush and Ashcroft wholeheartedly agree.
In the not too distant future there will be more subpoenas, more prison
terms, more FBI invasion of civil liberties, more COINTELPRO-like abuse,
especially in regard to nonviolent civil disobedience.
Mark Ames comments on the neocon plan for America, "It can get a hell of
a lot worse. And it will. Which isn't so bad, so long as you're part of the
If not, a subpoena may arrive at your door any day.
is a photographer, multimedia artist and writer living in New Mexico. He is
Another Day in the Empire: Life in Neoconservative America (Dandelion
Books, 2003). To see his photo work and read more of his essays, visit his
excellent “Another Day in the Empire” weblog:
Other Articles by Kurt Nimmo
The Perle and
Frum Totalitarian How-to Manual
Independent Commission: Exonerating the Spooks
Calling Dubya to
Book on Neocon Lies
* The Sharon-Rumsfeld
Plan: Going after Hezbollah
* Bush and the
Supreme Court: Going After the Bill of Rights
Defense: Call Bush Senior to the Stand
* Bush's Police
State: Going After the Left, Not al-Qaeda
Bogus Terror Threats and Bush's Police State
No More Mr. Nice Guy: Bush Gets Serious About Killing Iraqis
Newt Gingrich: Growing the Dictatorship in Iraq
Bush Ministry of Disinformation Editor Gets "Freedom" Medal
Zionism's Useful Idiots
Apologies for Wolfowitz the Microbe
Sailor-Mongering Civil Disobedience: The
Justice Dept.’s War Against Greenpeace
Criticizing Zionism: Naked Anti-Semitism?
Shock Therapy and the Israel Scenario
Cuba and the "Necessary Viciousness" of the
Bush's Speech: Internationalizing the Whirlwind
The Imam Ali Mosque Bombing: Round Up the
Iraq's WMD: The Lie that Will Never Die
UN Bombing: Terrorism or National Liberation?
Saddam Hussein: Taking Out the CIA's Trash
The Bug Exterminator Goes to Jerusalem
Bread, Circuses, Uday and Qusay