By Contributor on October 25, 2011

By Shahid Buttar

Oct. 26 marks the 10th anniversary of the USA Patriot Act, the first among many bipartisan government assaults on the Bill of Rights over the past decade. It is a time to mourn our lost freedoms.

Our constitutional rights have dramatically eroded, turning the “land of the free” into the “land of the easily intimidated.” We have traded liberty for a false impression of security, and we will regret it.

President Bush originally signed the Patriot Act into law on Oct. 26, 2001, and — despite documented, recurring and ongoing abuses — President Obama has signed reauthorization bills no fewer than three times. Even though more than 400 cities and towns, plus eight states, have issued official resolutions repudiating domestic surveillance, the national security juggernaut has continued to steamroll the Constitution.

The FBI, the National Security Agency and the CIA deploy battlefield surveillance technologies to monitor law-abiding Americans en masse, claim an increasingly vast share of the federal budget and disclaim any meaningful limits on their disturbing powers.

And courts routinely defer to ridiculous claims that topics embarrassing to the government — like outsourcing torture to other countries, or monitoring the e-mail and phone calls of hundreds of millions of Americans without any individualized suspicion — constitute “state secrets” that must be protected for national security reasons.

Meanwhile, Congress has rubberstamped every executive request (whether from Bush or Obama) to shrink the constitutional rights of Americans. After the Patriot Act was first enacted in 2001, Congress repeatedly reauthorized it over bipartisan dissent, enacted the FISA Amendments Act, and then, this fall, entrenched the FBI leadership beyond its statutory term for the first time since J. Edgar Hoover’s reign of intimidation.

The Justice Department’s own internal watchdog has documented numerous abuses of Patriot Act powers. The federal government has issued thousands of improper National Security Letters.

The Patriot Act has also been used by the Departments of Justice and Treasury to seize charities without due process, even though the work of such organizations could advance U.S. interests by alleviating suffering in war-torn areas and winning hearts and minds. The same provisions have enabled investigations of peace, labor and immigrant rights activists in Chicago, Minneapolis and Los Angeles for what essentially amount to thought crimes.

But the abuses extend well beyond the Patriot Act, constructing a whole even worse the sum of its parts. Under Bush — and with the later support of the Obama administration — the National Security Agency launched a secret dragnet warrantless wiretapping scheme, which became public only because intrepid journalists risked prosecution to reveal it. Even though every federal court that ever reviewed the program on its merits declared it unconstitutional, Congress authorized the agency’s wiretapping through legislation in 2008 and immunized telecommunications companies that participated in it.

Under Bush, the attorney general’s guidelines governing FBI operations were overhauled, allowing investigative tactics from the infamous COINTELPRO era, such as infiltrating constitutionally protected ideological groups — on the basis of a secret legal standard that has never been disclosed. And even though the CIA is prohibited from operating within the United States, it has smeared critics and trained local law enforcement in counterproductive profiling techniques.

Never has our government been less accountable to We the People.

Shahid Buttar is the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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