A Hidden Court and "Hidden Enemies"

Woody Guthrie once wrote about the two levels of thieves in our society: "Some'll rob you with a six gun, and some with a fountain pen."

It's the fountain-penners who are out to steal our democracy from us today. These are not outlaws, but powerful people deep inside the law, our own officials who are using terrorism as their excuse to shred our First Amendment rights. One of their fountain-pen operations is a little-known, governmental body called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Operating in absolute secrecy, FISC is where the FBI goes to get an ok to spy on people in this country who are believed to be operating on behalf of a foreign power.

Believed by whom? By the authorities -- no one else is present when the federal agents get the court's permission to spy, and FISC is notoriously quick to put its fountain pen to the approval papers. In a recent analysis of 934 formal applications to spy, this court approved all of them.

Now comes the USA Patriot Act -- so ugly that it would cause all the real Patriots of 1776 to gag. Slam-bammed through congress last year by George W and his authoritarian sidekick, John Ashcroft, this thing is riddled with anti-democratic provisions. For example, it empowers the FBI to force libraries and bookstores to cough up the borrowing and buying records of any of us the feds decide to go after in one of their sweeping terrorist investigations.

Who's a terrorist? Under Ashcroft's new law, anyone whose acts "appear to be intended to ... influence the policy of government by intimidation," is defined as a terrorist. Appears to be? And who decides if this vague and sweeping language applies to a particular person targeted by the FBI? The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

This is Jim Hightower saying ... The presiding judge of FISC has said that his secret court is one of the most important that we have "as we combat our hidden enemies." In a democracy, our real enemy is a hidden court looking for "hidden enemies."

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