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July 20, 2005

Bloggers have been expressing outrage over the recent news that the government has been spying on organizations like the ACLU and Greenpeace.

John Aravosis at AMERICAblog calls it “disgusting” and says they chose the wrong group to snoop on. “Yeah, pick on an organization filled with teams of lawyers who are the best experts in the country on government officials who pick on organizations illegally.”

Kevin Hayden at The American Street is reminded of Frank Zappa’s sarcastic line “it can’t happen here.”

Since the 2001 passage of the Patriot Act, its staunchest supporters have used Zappa’s refrain. Civil liberties proponents worried that an act so overly broad that it infringed on the capacity of librarians’ rights to free speech would be used by law enforcement to suppress peaceful dissent, and not as a tool simply against organized global terrorism. The act’s defenders said ‘Pshaw. It can’t happen here.”

Yeah, right.

There’s numerous historical examples of infringements on liberty during US wars. Lincoln declared martial law. WWI saw the Espionage & Sedition Acts. WWII saw the internment of Japanese-Americans. Vietnam saw Cointelpro. Yet despite the precedents, no-one’s ever demonstrated any positive impact from such expansions of police powers, or at least, none that outweighed the negative consequences. Deprived of property, personal freedom or civil liberties, most of these actions in practice stifled and intimidated political dissent, on false promises of increased security.

Denny Henke at Where We’re Bound also remembers COINTELPRO and other past government abuses and says that “it was just a matter of time” until the FBI overstepped its bounds. Once again “critics of those in power are [considered] terrorists.”

Have you been blogging about the Patriot Act? Please add a comment and let us know.

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