Green Party Statement on Defending Constitutional Rights
2 WEEKS, January 14-28
1 WEEK, January 28 – February 4
Green Party of CT
Please send comments and suggestions to John Battista firstname.lastname@example.org or Tom Sevigny email@example.com
Green Party Statement on Defending Constitutional Rights
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE:
During the discussion of our last statement on the war, it was the opinion of many that the statement needed to include language condemning the assault on Constitutional Rights. It was decided that the last statement should stand on it’s own and that a separate statement needed to be drafted to address the issue of Constitutional Rights. This statement is an attempt to address that issue.
This will need a simple majority vote of the CC to pass.
Green Party Policy Statement on Defending Constitutional Rights From Anti-terrorist Assaults
Originally drafted December 23, 2001
It is appropriate for our government to heighten security to protect ourselves from terrorism. However, heightened security measures should not infringe on the rights of individuals guaranteed by the Constitution. The Green Party of the United States opposes the PATRIOT Anti-terrorism Act and a many newly enacted federal and state powers because they undercut constitutional rights, deplete judicial oversight of investigative powers, and create a culture of intimidation which stifles political debate. Among our concerns are the following:
Secret Investigation of Political Groups
The PATRIOT Act of October 26, 2001 provides the government with the right to secretly investigate members of groups who engage in acts “dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws… and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”
By defining domestic terrorism in such a broad and subjective way, groups protesting the World Trade Organization, the Vieques bombings, or abortion laws, for example, could have their members secretly investigated if a single person in their group were to perform a criminal act such as cutting a fence, throwing a stone, or crossing a police barrier.
More overtly, on November 30 government officials announced that Attorney General Ashcroft is considering altering FBI guidelines to allow the FBI to investigate political and religious groups. Thus, the Administration appears to be in the process of undoing the domestic surveillance restrictions which were imposed on the FBI in response to their widespread domestic surveillance which included Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists, antiwar activists, the American Indian Movement, and the Committee In Solidarity With the People of El Salvador.
The PATRIOT Act undercuts the First Amendment to the Constitution which protects people from guilt by association, thereby intimidating people from engaging in the freedom of speech and assembly.
Unwarranted Search and Surveillance
The PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to secretly search an individual’s home, computer, or business, listen to phone conversations, as well as obtain Internet communications, medical records, financial records, and student records for “intelligence” purposes under the PATRIOT Act’s definition of domestic terrorism.
In addition, the PATRIOT Act allows the government to search for evidence in a criminal investigation without first issuing a search warrant when it contends that issuing a warrant would impede the investigation. In common language, it allows the government to “fish” for information that may be relevant to a criminal investigation without having to show reasonable cause that the information it seeks may reveal evidence relevant to a crime.
The PATRIOT Act undercuts the Fourth Amendment which protects citizens from unwarranted search and surveillance.
Detention and Deportation of Non-Citizens Without Cause
For non-US citizens who are members of a designated “terrorist organization,” the consequences are much worse than unwarranted search and surveillance. Non citizen members of such groups are inadmissible to the United States, and deportable if they are already in the United States.
Furthermore, if they are not deportable because they have no state, would be subject to torture if returned, or because their home country refuses to receive a person so-designated as a member of a “terrorist organization,” such a person could be indefinitely incarcerated without showing that they have committed any crime. Around 1200 immigrants have been detained by the United States government since September 11 for undisclosed reasons.
Ethnic Profiling and Investigation Without Reason
On November 9 the Administration announced a policy of ethnic profiling in which it would discriminate against granting visas to men from Middle Eastern countries. In addition, it would “invite” 5,000 Arab immigrants who have entered the United States since January 2000 to submit to questioning.
Eavesdropping on Attorney-Inmate Conversations
On October 31 new regulations were issued that allow the government to listen in on conversations between an attorney and an inmate when the Attorney General “suspects” such a conversation may have a connection to terrorist activity. This is in accord with Attorney General Ashcroft’s belief that “the constitution does not apply to terrorists.” This regulation clearly undercuts the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution which guarantees the right to competent legal defense.
Undercutting the Right to Public Trial
On November 13 the Administration announced its intention to create secret military tribunals to try immigrants and other foreigners for terrorism. The usual rules of evidence and right to defense counsel would not necessarily apply. There would be no right of appeal. This is particularly striking since the US succeeded in pressuring Peru to retry an American citizen, Lori Berenson, in a civilian court after she was convicted of revolutionary activity in a secret military tribunal. Such tribunals would clearly undo the right to a public trial guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Use of Torture
The administration has considered allowing the use of torture to obtain information from suspects under investigation for terrorism. The use of torture is specifically outlawed by the 1984 United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Establishment of “Patriotic” Behavioral Codes and Intimidation of Dissent
In Wisconsin there is a mandated recital of the Pledge of Allegiance and/or National Anthem in state public schools. In addition, registration for the draft will become a prerequisite for employment within Wisconsin higher educational institutions in 2003. US Veteran Vic Lancia of the Connecticut Green Party was attacked and injured by police while peacefully protesting the war in Afghanistan and falsely charged with inciting to riot.
A freshman at Durham Tech was investigated by the US Secret Service for allegedly having “anti-American material.”
Such violations of free speech create an atmosphere of political intimidation and diminish political discourse essential to democracy.
Our constitutional rights are under attack in the name of counter-terrorism. Measures to counter terrorism have exacerbated an already hostile, fearful climate that is now stifling freedom of expression, freedom of movement, freedom of association and other political activities essential to a democracy. Throughout the nation several murders, hundreds of hate crimes and other racial profiling incidents, as well as over 1200 detentions of suspected “terrorists” have been reported since the Sept. 11th attacks.
Such acts – whether instigated or tolerated by the state – are unacceptable in a democratic society, and must be challenged. The Green Party of the United States supports rescinding the PATRIOT Act of 2001. In addition, we urge all citizens to not be intimidated by counter-terrorism measures and to continue to exercise their hard-won constitutional freedoms. Those who suffer violations of their civil liberties are encouraged to immediately contact the Green Party of the United States, publicize their experiences, and seek legal assistance from the National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other legal advocacy groups.