Statement - Peter Ackerman, Target of Illegal Spying

February 24, 2006

The Friends Meeting of Ft. Lauderdale, bearing witness to our Quaker testimony on Peace, attended the Air-Sea Show, a major military recruiting event held annually on the last weekend in April at Ft. Lauderdale beach. During the 2004 and 2005 events, we distributed information about conscientious objection to recruiters and interested civilians and handed out peace literature. This landed us on a government watchlist.

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Shortly after news broke about domestic surveillance by the Department of Defense, a local reporter called me and asked if I was a "credible threat". Laughter was my first reaction. Reminded by the reporter that someone must be thinking differently, my attention became focused on the implications of the question. In the past, when exercising 1st Amendment rights during the Vietnam War, our forces were legion; domestic spying was going on then—we saw the tiny cameras, knew the "plants" and mostly couldn't have cared less. Now with the Patriot Act the game has changed.

After the President's "with us or with the terrorists" speech I wanted to believe that this was only more inflammatory rhetoric. My gut told me differently. No mere line in the sand, this statement rendered the Constitution useless, and tore up the Bill of Rights. The fabric of our Democracy had a big hole in it and I was already getting chills. War had just been declared against American citizens and anyone else who disagreed with this President. Illegal surveillance was ordered to find out who the credible threats are and all of us, everyone, is suspect. Since I'm still free to work, go sailing and express my discontent with this administration my guess is I've "passed" this first round, but I now function at their discretion, not because of Constitutional guarantees!

Faith has empowered my political witness. Early on after 9/11, when I was standing alone with a sign against the impending war, I felt Quakers past and present holding me in the light — our service in the world originates from our meeting for worship and is guided by our testimonies of Simplicity, Integrity, Peace, Equality and Community. Clearly, as policies of the present American Government run contrary to our stated testimonies, we act as we are led to oppose those policies.

So the question, "Am I a credible threat?" needs to be answered not only by the NSA, but also by each one of us who find the policies of the G.W. Bush administration abhorrent. Does my lack of consent to the governance of this administration justify surveillance? It is when the governed collectively remove their consent from this Government that we all become a credible threat and this nightmare will end.

Quakers are used to speaking truth to power. We are unbowed by power seeing us as a threat, and recognize that "threat" is in the eye of the beholder. We are peaceful community promoting peace.

"This," cried the Mayor, "is your town's darkest hour! The time for all Whos who have blood that is red to come to the aid of their country!" he said. "We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts! So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!"
-- Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears A Who
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