Matthew Rothschild

"An Extreme Choice" -- What Two of Wisconsin's Leading Progressive Journalists Think About Mitt Romney's Pick of Paul Ryan

AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney announced Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would be his vice-presidential running mate. Ryan, now 42, was elected to the House of Representatives at 28. He’s a Republican representative. He’s also chair of the House of Representatives Budget Committee. He spoke in Virginia right after his selection was made.

Keep reading... Show less

Obama Needs to Do More Than Swap Liberal Justices

While everyone’s talking about how the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor may affect the Supreme Court, we need to keep our eye on the current court — and on Obama’s arguments in there.

Keep reading... Show less

Bush Wants Your Eyeballs

Big Brother wants your irises.

George Bush just issued a directive to expand the acquisition of biometric information, and to ensure that agencies across the executive branch share it.

And the Bush Administration may give it to foreign governments, too.

All this according to National Security Presidential Directive Number 59, also known as Homeland Security Presidential Directive Number 24, which George W. Bush signed on June 5.

The directive is aimed at "known and suspected terrorists," as well as "other persons who may pose a threat to national security."

The directive does not say how these other persons who "may pose a threat" are to be defined.

And the directive is so broadly worded that it appears to cover anyone the government has biometric or other personal data on.

"To be most effective, national security identification and screening systems will require timely access to the most accurate and most complete biometric, biographic, and related that are, or can be, made available throughout the executive branch," the document states.

Bush ordered executive departments and agencies to "use mutually compatible methods and procedures in the collection, storage, use, analysis, and sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information of individuals." Agencies are supposed to share this information with each other "to the fullest extent permitted by law" whenever "there is an articulable and reasonable basis for suspicion" that an individual poses a "threat to national security."

The directive does not specify what an "articulable and reasonable basis" might be.

"Known and suspected terrorists," or KSTs, as the document calls them, are not the only concern of the Bush Administration.

It has whole groups of other people that it wants to gather biometric information on.

Within 90 days, the Attorney General is tasked to "recommend categories of individuals in addition to KSTs who may pose a threat to national security," and he is ordered to "set forth cost-effective actions and associated timelines for expanding the collection and use of biometrics to identify and screen for such individuals."

The Attorney General is to coordinate this "with the Secretaries of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], and the Director of Science and Technology Policy."

The Attorney General is also required to identify "legal authorities" to implement the directive.

The directive states that it wants to expand the use of biometrics on individuals "in a lawful and appropriate manner, while respecting their information privacy and other legal rights under United States law."

But the directive offers no suggestion about how those rights would be protected.

The directive also says that the Secretary of State "shall coordinate the sharing of biometric and associated biographic and contextual information with foreign partners."

Under what circumstances the Secretary of State would share such information with "foreign partners" remains unclear. All the directive says is that it would happen "in accordance with applicable law, including international obligations undertaken by the United States."

Give the Bush Administration's demonstrated disdain for applicable law and international obligations, and given its record of violating people's privacy rights, this is not reassuring.

Bush Closer to Bombing Iran

The odds of Bush bombing Iran have gone up dramatically this week.

There's just no other way to rationally interpret the resignation of Admiral William Fallon as head of Centcom.

Fallon resigned, and more likely was pushed out, after Esquire published an article on him entitled "The Man Between War and Peace." It said he was the one standing in the way of Bush bombing Iran.

He's not standing in the way any longer.

Actually, his rival, General David Petraeus, is now more powerful than ever. And as the Esquire article noted, Petraeus has said: "You cannot win in Iraq solely in Iraq."

Fallon seemed to understand the risk he was taking when he took the job as head of Centcom. He told Esquire: "Career capping? How about career detonating?"

Fallon's fate as a weathervane for war with Iran has been clear since the time of his confirmation, when he told a source that an attack on Iran "will not happen on my watch."

His watch just stopped.

He also said, a the time, "There are several of us trying to put the crazies back in the box."

But the crazies are still bounding around outside the box, and none crazier than Dick Cheney, who is off on a Mideast trip, ostensibly to deal with Israel and Palestine and also with high oil prices.

But there are other purposes, as well. Cheney is visiting Oman, "a key military ally and logistics hub for military operations in the Persian Gulf," notes U.S. News & World Report.

What's more, according to U.S. News, "two U.S. warships took up positions off Lebanon earlier this month." The Pentagon "would want its warships in the eastern Mediterranean in the event of military action against Iran to keep Iranian ally Syria in check and to help provide air cover to Israel against Iranian missile reprisals," the story said. "One of the newly deployed ships, the USS Ross, is an Aegis guised missile destroyer, a top system for defense against air attacks."

U.S. News cited three other signs why war is more likely now: Israel's airstrike on Syria, Israel's war with Hezbollah, and Shimon Peres's disavowal of unilateral action.

Here's one more: The director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell, testified to the Senate on February 5 that maybe in last fall's NIE he overstressed the fact that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons work. And maybe he overplayed the fact that Iran doesn't know how to design a nuclear weapon just yet.

And maybe he should have highlighted the fact that Iran was still enriching uranium.

And maybe he should have emphasized that, therefore, Iran still poses a potential nuclear threat.

"In retrospect," McConnell said, "I would do some things differently."

Like give Bush and Cheney exactly what they ask for.

Something Admiral Fallon, to his credit, was not prepared to do.

The White House Has a Manual for Silencing Protesters and Demonstrations

So the truth comes out.

After a myriad of stories about people being excluded from events where the President is speaking, now we know that the White House had a policy manual on just how to do so.

Called the "Presidential Advance Manual," this 103-page document from the Office of Presidential Advance lays out the parameters for how to handle protesters at events.

"Always be prepared for demonstrators," says the document, which is dated October 2002 and which the ACLU released as part of a new lawsuit.

In a section entitled "Preventing Demonstrators," the document says: "All Presidential events must be ticketed or accessed by a name list. This is the best method for preventing demonstrators. People who are obviously going to try to disrupt the event can be denied entrance at least to the VIP area between the stage and the main camera platform. ... It is important to have your volunteers at a checkpoint before the Magnetometers in order to stop a demonstrator from getting into the event. Look for signs they may be carrying, and if need be, have volunteers check for folded cloth signs that demonstrators may be bringing."

In another section, entitled "Preparing for Demonstrators," the document makes clear that the intention is to deprive protesters of the right to be seen or heard by the President: "As always, work with the Secret Service and have them ask the local police department to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in view of the event site or motorcade route."

The document also recommends drowning out protesters or blocking their signs by using what it calls "rally squads." It states: "These squads should be instructed always to look for demonstrators. The rally squad's task is to use their signs and banners as shields between the demonstrators and the main press platform. If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protestors (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

The document offered advice on how to recruit members for such squads: "The rally squads can include, but are not limited to, college/young republican organizations, local athletic teams, and fraternities/sororities."

The document does contain a warning in bold, however: "Remember -- avoid physical contact with demonstrators." It also advises to make sure that whatever action is taken to drown out the demonstrators does not "cause more negative publicity than if the demonstrators were simply left alone."

Is Martial Law Around the Corner?

Editor's note: After writing about the White House's issuance of a "National Continuity Policy" on May 9 which entrusts President Bush to lead the entire federal government, not just the Executive Branch, to ensure "constitutional government" in the case of a "catastrophic emergency," Progressive magazine editor Matthew Rothschild has followed up after consulting with the ACLU to see what they thought about it. (For another take on the National Continuity Policy, read Marjorie Cohn's article, "Don't We Have a Constitution, Not a King?")

A note of caution since I wrote about Bush's plans to anoint himself the insurer of constitutional government in the event of emergency.

I decided to see what the American Civil Liberties Union thought of the May 9 release of the National Security Presidential Directive, and to my surprise, the ACLU did not seem that concerned about it.

"These presidential directives on the continuity of government have existed for a long time," says Mike German, ACLU policy counsel. "All it does is establish that they should have a policy and coordinate that policy with legislative and judiciary. It doesn't change the order of succession, or anything like that."

Plus, he praised the Bush Administration for making the document public, since previous ones have remained classified.

"I'm glad they made it public," he says. "The fact that this was done in an open and transparent manner should be applauded."

As to the substance of the document: "It's impossible to know whether this is an attempt to usurp some authority that had otherwise not been contemplated by law," German says.

It certainly is curious as to why the Bush Administration released the document. The last paragraph is entitled "Security," and it states: "This directive and the information contained herein shall be protected form unauthorized disclosure, provided that, except for Annex A, the Annex's attached to this directive are classified."

But whatever the reason for the disclosure, the document is not reassuring, especially given Bush's demonstrated disdain for the Constitution.

Take his approval of warrantless NSA domestic spying. U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that it "undisputedly" violates the Fourth Amendment, "undisputedly" violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, violates the First Amendment, and violates the separation of powers. Not mincing any words, she added: "The Constitution itself has been violated."

Or take his policy of denying U.S. citizens due process. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the Supreme Court in the Hamdi case, said the President does not have a blank check in times of war. "We necessarily reject the Government's assertion that separation of powers principles mandate a heavily circumscribed role for the courts," O'Connor wrote. And she explicitly warned about an Executive Branch approach that "serves only to condense power into a single branch of government."

Condensing power into a single branch is precisely what concerns me about Bush's new directive.

The directive also uses fudge words that President Bush was fond of while he was trying to find ways to justify torture. The continuity of government directive says it will be implemented in a manner "consistent with" the Constitution and "consistent with applicable law."

Compare that with Bush's February 7, 2002, order governing the treatment of detainees: "The war against terrorism ushers in a new paradigm. . . . Our nation recognizes that this new paradigm -- ushered in not by us, but by terrorists -- requires new thinking in the law of war, but thinking that should nevertheless be consistent with the principles of Geneva."

In that context, Bush used the phrase "consistent with" to justify actions that were antithetical to the Geneva Conventions.

You have to wonder whether he's using that phrase in a similar way when it comes to the Constitution in times of an emergency.

What's more, there are the comments by former high-ranking officials in the Bush Administration who have said that martial law is coming if we're attacked again.

Wayne Downing was Bush's deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism under Condoleezza Rice early in the first term. On December 24, 2002, six months after he retired, he told The Washington Post: "The United States may have to declare martial law someday in the case of a devastating attack with weapons of mass destruction causing tens of thousands of casualties. This could mean that the military would be given the authority to impose curfews, protect businesses and communities, even make arrests."

General Tommy Franks, who led the Iraq invasion, told Cigar Aficionado in December 2003 that if terrorists attack us again, this time with a weapon of mass destruction, it will cause the "population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass-casualty-producing event. Which, in fact, then begins to potentially unravel the fabric of our Constitution."

Downing and Franks aren't the only former officials talking about martial law.

On April 7, 2004, Ted Koppel hosted a Nightline program on the very subject.

He said if Washington, D.C., is attacked, "Aren't we left for at least the foreseeable future with some sort of martial law anyway?"

Kenneth Duberstein, Reagan's chief of staff, responded: "You have to suspend rights."

Richard Clarke, who was Clinton's counterterrorism expert and was in the Bush Administration on 9/11, responded: "There would be a period of, for lack of a better term, something like martial law."

One month later, Koppel spoke at the University of California-Berkeley commencement and again addressed the martial law issue quite frankly: "Do not doubt for a moment that, at some point, during the next few years, one or the other of those weapons [chemical, biological, or nuclear] will almost certainly be used in an act of terrorism against the United States . . . in the United States. Then the time for discussing our civil liberties will be over. More than likely, the use of a chemical or biological weapon in a terrorist attack against the U.S. homeland would lead to the imposition of martial law. For how long and under what circumstances it would be lifted again has, to the best of my knowledge, never even been publicly addressed. But understand that the most implacable enemy of our civil liberties is fear. What we will do after the next terrorist attack is not a conversation that should be deferred."

So why is it being deferred?

Why is Congress not taking up the urgent need to hold hearings on this very subject?

Here are two more reasons to be worried.

The Northern Command, Northcom, created by Bush, already has plans to militarize the United States in the event of an attack.

"The new plans provide for what several senior officers acknowledged is the likelihood that the military will have to take charge in some situations, especially when dealing with mass-casualty attacks," Bradley Graham wrote in The Washington Post on August 8, 2005.

Then there is the revision to the Posse Comitatus Act, which Bush whisked through last October.

In an editorial on February 19 of this year, aptly entitled "Making Martial Law Easier," The New York Times wrote: "Beyond cases of actual insurrection, the President may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack, or to any 'other condition.' Changes of this magnitude should be made only after a thorough public airing. But these new Presidential powers were slipped into the law without hearings or public debate."

Interestingly, some in the Bush Justice Department didn't believe this Congressional change was even necessary. On October 23, 2001, then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General John C. Yoo and Robert J. Delahunty, then-special counsel in the Office of Legal Counsel, wrote a memo to Alberto Gonzales, then-White House Counsel, and William Haynes II, then-general counsel for the Pentagon: "We recently opined that the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 USCs.1385 (1994), which generally prohibits the use of Armed Forces for law enforcement purposes absent constitutional or statutory authority to do so, does not forbid the use of military force for the military purpose of preventing and deterring terrorism within the United States."

Now Congress has given Bush and the Pentagon this power anyway.

I hope the ACLU is correct, and that Bush's May 9 directive is nothing to worry about.

But given all that we know about the Bush Administration, I, for one, am not convinced.

What I am convinced of, however, is the need for Congressional hearings on this subject -- before it's too late.

Vet Prosecuted for Protesting Military Recruitment in Library

Tim Coli served in the first Gulf War and now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

On March 12, he and his wife, Yvette, went to the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library in Ohio. At 37, she is a student at Kent State and needed to study for a biology test. Tim, 40, was reading some books.

Then they noticed two military recruiters trying to enlist someone in a nearby room, with a large glass window.

She decided to take action.

She took out some 3x5 cards and wrote messages to the man being recruited and then put them up on the window sill.

"Don't fall for it! Military recruiters lie," said one.

"It's not honorable to fight for a lying President," said another.

She says she cleared it all first.

"Before I put those cards up, I went to a volunteer and I asked her if it was OK if I put those cards up in the window, and she said she didn't have a problem with that but talk to someone who works there," Yvette says. "The next person said it was fine so long as there is no confrontation. And she said, 'Between you and I, I wish they weren't here, either.' "

The recruiters were none too happy with the cards.

One of them came out and asked Coil who put them up.

When she admitted she had, he asked for her name, which she didn't give him.

He told her that she and her husband couldn't put the cards up.

"My husband asked him if he was trying to keep us from using our freedom of speech," Coil says.

He didn't answer that, she says, but he did tell her again to stop.

He took the cards and went to find the library director.

In the meantime, Coil put some more card on the sill:

"Don't do it."

"My husband is a Gulf War Veteran. He can tell you the truth"

"To the military, you are cannon fodder."

"Recruiters: You're fighting for my freedom of speech, too!"

The library director, Doug Dotterer, told them that if they put up one more card, he was going to ask them to leave, Coil says. He told them they couldn't display things that were disturbing other people in the library. She told him that the Army had its brochures out on a nearby table, and they were disturbing her, she says.

"My husband said that the library was a public place and we are allowed our freedom of speech," Coil says. "The director said it was his library, and so we would have to follow his rules."

When he left, they knocked on the window and urged the man being recruited not to join up.

Soon the police arrived.

They asked the Coils to leave the building.

"We said, 'Gladly,' " Yvette recalls.

But on his way out, Tim called the director a name.

"One more word from you and I'll arrest you," the police officer told Tim.

Then Tim shouted, "Don't let the military recruit people in the library."

Whereupon the police arrested him and took him to the station and booked him for disorderly conduct. A little while later, Yvette came and picked him up.

The district attorney did not return phone calls for comment.

Library Director Dotterer would not talk except to say: "I contacted my board president, who is an attorney, and he indicated that because this is an ongoing case we're not going to comment. What I would refer you to are the official police reports."

The police report says Coil was arrested for "causing a disturbance within a library."

At an April 30 pretrial meeting, Coil was asked if he wanted to make a plea and settle the whole thing.

"No, I'm not guilty," he said, according to his wife.

She explains: "We're Mennonite. To lie about that would be wrong. I don't want him to go to jail. Neither does he. He doesn't need that. But I believe that God's going to take care of it. We're OK with whatever happens. The point is if we don't stand for these freedoms and we don't allow ourselves to be put on the line for those things, there won't be an option anymore."

Attorney William Whitaker is representing the Coils.

"If a statute punishes this conduct, then that statute is unconstitutional since it sweeps protected speech within its orbit," he says. "They were engaged in protected First Amendment speech. It's legitimate to use the public library in the same way that the recruiters were using it."

On May 10, Yvette Coil says that her lawyer was advised that the state would drop charges if they would pay $100 in court fees.

"Tim said he should not have to pay for being harassed," says Yvette. "No one has the right to take your freedoms away."

The case is scheduled for June 5.

Attack of the Mortgage Vultures

George Bush likes to boast about the high rates of homeownership. But today in America, millions of homeowners are at risk of seeing their prized possession taken right out from under them.

Over the last decade, we have been witnessing some of the most brazen acts of mortgage entrapment ever to hit the American housing market.

Subprime lenders have coaxed eager consumers to buy or refinance their homes often with no money down, and at seemingly low interest rates. But now millions of homeowners are paying way more than they can afford.

Their dream of homeownership has quickly turned into a nightmare of foreclosure.

And this nightmare is beginning to rattle the economy as a whole.

All the while, the government has stood idly by.

Buying or refinancing a home is not what it used to be. Traditionally, you’d get your mortgage through a savings and loan. The banker there would inspect your income and credit history to see if you could pay back the loan, and you needed to come up with 20 percent of the loan as a down payment. The loan would have a fixed interest rate over fifteen or thirty years. The homeowner would have to set aside money for property taxes and homeowners’ insurance. And the mortgage would stay in the originating bank.

Things are different now, thanks to the so-called subprime mortgage market, which accounts for almost one out of every four home loans currently being written. Today, mortgage brokers barrage consumers with offers of no-money-down loans, and last year, “more than 37 percent of subprime loans were made without verification of borrowers’ incomes,” The New York Times notes. Nor do such lenders typically require borrowers to escrow money for property taxes and homeowners’ insurance.

The terms of the loans are also much different. Adjustable rate mortgages have proliferated, with consumers getting seduced by offers of low interest rates the first two years of the loan only to be slapped with steeply escalating rates in subsequent years.

And the original lending institution now often sells the mortgage on the financial markets rather than hold onto it. When times get tough, faraway investors are even less open to renegotiating terms than local savings and loans were.

The boom in this industry has been extraordinary. “From 1994 to 2005, the subprime loan market grew from $35 billion to $665 billion,” the Center for Responsible Lending notes in a report entitled “Losing Ground: Foreclosures in the Subprime Market and Their Cost to Homeowners.”

But so has the bust. “We estimate that one-third of families who received a subprime loan in 2005 and 2006 will ultimately lose their homes,” the report predicts.

While opening up the possibility of homeownership to people with lesser means or spottier credit is something that progressives have advocated for a long time, the way the private sector has done this has been criminal. “Because the subprime market is designed to serve borrowers who have credit problems, one might expect the industry to offer subprime loan products that do not magnify the risk of loan failure,” the report says. “In fact, the opposite is true.”

First of all, adjustable rate mortgages are inherently duplicitous. They play upon the attractiveness of low interest rates up front, and they exploit ignorance of higher rates later on.

Second, many who get subprime loans could easily have received safer, less expensive mortgages in the prime market but were steered into the subprime loan by a mortgage broker.

Third, these brokers sometimes get a cash bonus from the lender for getting the consumer to agree to a higher interest rate than the lender was expecting. And the broker’s incentive is not to ascertain creditworthiness but to clinch the deal. The broker bears no financial cost if the consumer ends up foreclosing.

Fourth, subprime mortgages often limit repayment of the loan’s principal, so that for many years the homeowner is just paying back interest and not accumulating equity.

Fifth, some subprime mortgages actually penalize the homeowner for paying off the loan ahead of time. This is especially pernicious, since if the consumer can’t make the payments and has to sell the home prematurely, the lender imposes a huge extra fee at closing, draining whatever equity the homeowner may have acquired.

African Americans and Latinos take subprime loans at astonishing rates. More than 50 percent of the home loans to African Americans are subprime. For Latinos, it’s 40 percent, the report says. “If current trends continue, it is quite possible that subprime mortgages could cause the largest loss of African American wealth in American history,” testified Martin Eakes, CEO of the Center for Responsible Lending on February 7 to the Senate banking committee.

Some mortgage executives are absolutely unapologetic. “People are adults and made choices in their lives because they wanted to own a home of their own,” Countrywide Financial CEO Angelo Mozilo told Bloomberg news service on March 22. “America’s great because people can make those decisions for themselves.” Countrywide Financial is the nation’s biggest mortgage lender.

Given the reprehensible tactics in the industry, and given the softness in the housing market, foreclosures are going through the roof. They were 43 percent higher in the third quarter of 2006 than the third quarter of 2005.

“Foreclosure rates will increase significantly in many markets as housing appreciation slows or reverses,” the Center for Responsible Lending says. “As a result, we project that 2.2 million borrowers will lose their homes and up to $164 billion of wealth in the process.”

Such a loss constitutes a threat to the overall economy. Several leftwing economists, most notably Dean Baker, have been warning for years about the danger of the housing bubble bursting. Now that it has begun to pop, even the Federal Reserve has taken note, though it has tried to put a happy face on the situation. In testimony before Congress on March 28, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said, “The impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime markets seems likely to be contained.” But he added that the Fed needs “flexibility” in case the problem spreads.

Ironically, the Fed all along could have done something about the predatory practices in the subprime market. In 1994, Congress passed the Home Ownership and Equity Protection Act. It gives the Fed the authority to “prohibit acts or practices in connection with—(A) mortgage loans that the Board finds to be unfair, deceptive, or designed to evade the provisions of this section; and (B) refinancing of mortgage loans that the Board finds to be associated with abusive lending practices, or that are otherwise not in the interest of the borrower.”

But the beatified former Fed chief Alan Greenspan was not all that concerned about the interest of the borrower. His interest lay with the financiers, so he hailed subprime lending as the “democratization of credit.” In fact, as Senator Christopher Dodd noted at a recent hearing, the Fed actually “seemed to encourage the development and use” of adjustable rate mortgages “that today are defaulting and going into foreclosure at record rates.”

Congress may finally be rising to its responsibilities. Representative Barney Frank and Senator Chuck Schumer both say they expect to introduce legislation that would crack down on the unscrupulous lending in the subprime market before the year is out.

But what’s the wait?

We can’t allow these vulture-like lenders to keep circling over the heads of vulnerable consumers. It is the proper role of government to defend the consumer against just such predatory behavior and to make the dream of homeownership something people can afford and enjoy, not something they get haunted by.

Mother of Suicide Vet Flies Old Glory Upside Down

Terri Jones lost her son Jason Cooper just over a year ago.

He was an Army Reservist in the Iraq War.

On July 14, 2005, four months after returning home to Iowa, he hanged himself.

He was 23.

Since then, Jones has been flying her American flag upside down, though someone came on her property once and turned it right side up, and another person stole it.

“We had a flag out the whole time Jason was in Iraq,” she says. “Once he died, my boyfriend Vince turned it upside down to protest everything that’s happening with our government, especially our soldiers being failed when they come home.”
Jones says Jason wasn’t the same when he got back from Iraq.

“He was a really upbeat, happy, funny kid” before he left, she says. “You could tell his smile was gone when he came home.”

He also had a hard time paying attention.

“We did notice right away that he’d space off while you were trying to talk to him,” she says. “His thoughts were floating off somewhere else.”

And the reaction of some of his friends caught him by surprise.

“He was excited to see them,” she says, “and he thought they would be, ‘Hey, Coop, good to see you.’ But instead, the first thing that would come out was, ‘Jas, you shoot anybody?’ He was so taken aback he didn’t know how to answer. He’d just say, ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ ”

Jones tells me her son was hit by enemy fire. “His flack jacket took 37 pieces of shrapnel,” she says. “He didn’t even get a bruise.”

Jones also told Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register of one haunting memory he had about an insurgent who executed an Iraqi child in full view of Cooper and other members of his unit.

Jason was having a lot of nightmares and flashbacks, his mother says. “His girlfriend said he’d wake up in night sweats, and she had to take him out for a walk at three in the morning.”

Jones says she really got worried three days before her son died.

“He called me at work towards the end of the day,” she says. “He was at the mall. He was crying. He was really disoriented. He didn’t know what was happening. He was afraid. He told me a friend of his had just died. I asked what his name was. And he said Jeremy Ridlen, who had died a year before.” (Ridlen, an Army National Guard Specialist, died in East Fallujah on May 23, 2004.)

Jones says her son “knew he needed help, but he didn’t want to go the VA.” She says he’d gone there the month before, after he hurt his wrist in a motorcycle fall. “When he went to the VA, they didn’t have room to treat him that day,” she says.

Plus, she says, he was worried about the stigma he might get if he appeared to be weak.

“He was still active duty,” she says, and “he knew he would have to go back” to Iraq.

Jones says the military isn’t doing enough for soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. “They are not being take care of,” she says.

The VA denies this.

“We’re out there in their faces. . . . We’re all there for them,” Victor Tate, a VA outreach specialist in Iowa, told the Des Moines Register. “At no time in the history of America has more attention been paid to veterans.”

Now a member of Gold Star Families for Peace, Jones says she’s “forming a subchapter support group to help with military families who’ve had a suicide” after their loved one returned home.

“So far we know of about 70” such tragedies, she says.

Recently, Jones wrote a letter to Jason, which she posted on his memorial website.

“Jas, Mother’s Day came and went, and it was so hard not to hear from you. You always had something that you were so proud to give me. I still have petals from the pink roses you sent while still in training or all the drawings you loved to make. I carried your military boots in a Mother’s Day march in Washington, DC, to bring our troops home now. . . . I realized then that I did spend time with you on Mother’s Day and even though it wasn’t in a way that I would prefer, you will never be gone from me. You will always be in my mind and heart. . . . I hope you are in a sea of flowers now honey. No worries, no pain, just happy and enjoying the beauty of heaven. I miss you, buddy! I still wait for a phone call, I still long to hear ‘love you, Mama.’ . . . I am so grateful that you were my son to leave life-long memories. Love you the mostest, Mama.”

In that letter, she talked about the upside down flag. “I must admit that I never really liked the idea of the flag hanging upside down,” she wrote, “but it did represent a signal of distress so I agreed to keep it that way.”

One day early this March, Jones says someone turned their flag rightside up. “It happened between the time we went to the grocery store and came back. We were gone only half an hour,” she says. “I was kind of shocked. We live on a five-acre piece of land on a really long driveway, and the flag is on the house. They had to be watching us leave. That’s kind of weird, someone sitting out in a corner watching us somewhere.”

About a week later, she got an unsigned letter, postmarked March 13.

“I’ve noticed for quite some time now that you fly your American flag upside down. . . . Please don’t disrespect those who have fought and died on our soil preserving your very freedom and mine. . . . Let’s rally behind our troops and if they don’t believe in what they’re doing, let them voice it. Every single person in the armed forces today signed on the dotted line. . . . I know your flag is sending out a message that you might not have though it was sending. So I felt compelled to tell you what I thought.”

It was signed, “An extremely sincere fellow American citizen and proud of it.”

And in the P.S., the person added: “If it truly is that you hate living in this country and are ashamed of our freedom, then by all means, sir, why do you live here?”

In response, Jones wrote a letter to the editor of her local newspaper, the Chariton Leader.

“To the Person Who Didn’t Sign Their Letter,” Jones began. She explained that “flying our flag upside down in no way shows disrespect for our country. Flying the flag upside down is a sign of distress as stated in the United States Code of Flag Rules and Regulation.” She told of how her son was proud to be an American soldier, and even wanted to go back to Iraq. “But somehow, in four short months after returning home, his belief, pride, and willingness was eroded away by the invisible wounds of war.”

She discussed his suicide: “On July 14, after weeks of flashbacks and nightmares and having no medical help (yes, the VA turns them away) he took off his dog tags, walked to the basement of his home and wrapped a rope around his neck. And at 5 pm my precious son and proud warrior stepped off the chair.”

She asked for some understanding.

“Try explaining to Jason’s 13-year-old brother who planned on following Jason’s footsteps what went wrong,” she wrote. “Try explaining to the 8th Grade Confirmation Class who Jason had just personally thanked for their support during his deployment what went wrong. And mot of all, try seeing the fear in Jason’s Brother in Arms eyes as their trembling hands pull the American flag from his coffin and neatly fold it and present it to his family. Fearing their own future. So you ask why our flag is flying upside down. Because our soldiers are in distress and because of that very contract you talked about that they signed, they are not allowed to voice their opinion, so they rely on us to do so.”

She went on to say that “our country is in distress” for the way it has failed its vets. And she concluded: “When you drive by my house and see my flag flying I challenge you to help me turn it right side up. Show me that you are willing to do what it takes to help those that protect our rights and freedoms. And when I see that no soldier has been left behind, then that will be a day of joy for me to fly her right side up.”

Shortly after her letter appeared in the paper, her flag was stolen in the middle of the night. “They took the whole flagpole and everything right out of the holder,” she says.

“I just went and got another one and put it back up.”

Upside Down Flag turns Free Speech Upside Down

Scott Roe was practicing with his band, "Corruption of Blood," on July 3 at his home in Ottumwa, Iowa. The police came and said he was violating a new city noise ordinance. So that was the end of the practice session.

Roe wasn't happy about it, so he staged a protest the next day. He planted an upside down flag in his front yard and had a cutout of a police officer standing in front of it. The band's name was written in block letters across the flag.

It didn't take long for Officer Mark Milligan and Sergeant Chris Logan of the Ottumwa Police Department to show up.

A neighbor had evidently complained about the upside down flag in the yard.

The officers warned Roe that he'd be arrested if he didn't take the flag down.

He refused, asserting his First Amendment rights.

Whereupon he was arrested and charge with violating Iowa's flag desecration statute, Chapter 718A.

All of this according to the lawsuit that Roe has filed against Milligan and Logan and the Ottumwa Police Department.

Roe "faces 30 days in jail and a $500 fine," the Des Moines Register reports.

"No trial date has been set yet," says Randall Wilson of the ACLU of Iowa, who is representing Roe.

Roe's suit says the Iowa statute dates back to 1900 and is an "overly broad restriction of speech that is protected under the First Amendment."

Chapter 718A is a whopper. It reads: "Any person who in any manner, for exhibition or display, shall place or cause to be placed, any word, figure, mark, picture, design, drawing, or any advertisement of any nature, upon any flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or upon any flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state, or shall expose or cause to be exposed to public view, any such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or any such flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state, upon which shall have been printed, painted, or otherwise placed, or to which shall be attached, appended, affixed, or annexed, any word, figure, mark, picture, design, or drawing, or any advertisement of any nature, or who shall expose to public view, manufacture, sell, expose for sale, give away, or have in possession for sale, or to give away, or for use for any purpose any article or substance, being an article of merchandise or a receptacle of merchandise or article or thing for carrying or transporting merchandise, upon which shall have been printed, painted, attached or otherwise placed, a representation of any such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or any such flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state, to advertise, call attention to, decorate, mark, or distinguish the article or substance on which so placed, or who shall publicly mutilate, deface, defile or defy, trample upon, cast contempt upon, satirize, deride or burlesque, either by words or act, such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state, or who shall, for any purpose, place such flag, standard, color, ensign, shield, or other insignia of the United States, or flag, ensign, great seal, or other insignia of this state, upon the ground or where the same may be trod upon, shall be deemed guilty of a simple misdemeanor."

Wilson, legal director of the ACLU of Iowa, elaborates on the basis for the suit.

"The statute under which Mr. Roe is being prosecuted," Wilson tells me, "bans just about everything we do with flags these days: flag patches on clothing, bumper stickers, use in advertisements, and so forth. Amid all of this 'flag speech,' Mr. Roe's display was singled out for prosecution simply because he chose to criticize the police and how laws are enforced in his community. That's how it always goes: Flag desecration prosecutions are only used for political persecution.

Either this statute goes or the right to free speech goes. The two cannot peacefully coexist."

Roe does not have a listed phone number, and he did not contact me after I relayed my request through Wilson.

I spoke with the Ottumwa Police Department and was told that Milligan and Logan would not comment.

Ottumwa City Attorney Tom Kintigh says, "We've consulted our insurance company, and I don't know if they've assigned an attorney to it yet. We're waiting to hear back from them."

In his lawsuit, Roe is seeking the dropping of charges against him, a declaration that Iowa's flag desecration statute Chapter 718A is unconstitutional, and "an award of nominal and punitive damages from the Defendants in compensation for the deprivation of his constitutional rights."

The Harder They Fall

The Bush team keeps granting itself more and more power, including the power unilaterally to deem a law unconstitutional and then to flout that law.

That's essentially what the Justice Department said in the 42-page white paper on the NSA's warrantless spying program which it released on January 19.

With the Bush Administration's typical white-is-black Orwellian speak, it says that this program is "consistent with civil liberties," even though it acknowledges that "individual privacy issues at stake may be substantial."

For Bush and Cheney and Ashcroft, anything goes--including privacy--in the fight against Al Qaeda.

"The Government's overwhelming interest in detecting and thwarting further Al Qaeda attacks is easily sufficient to make reasonable the intrusion into privacy," says the Justice Department document, entitled "Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency Described by the President."

The gist of the Justice Department's argument is that the President's "inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief" and the Congressional Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) right after 9/11 give him all the power he needs to eavesdrop in the United States without a warrant.

It's not an easy argument to make, since the FISA law, as amended, requires that FISA is the "exclusive means" by which the NSA may engage in domestic surveillance. FISA requires a warrant except in the first fifteen days of an emergency.

Here is the argument. The Justice Department says "FISA expressly contemplates that the Executive Branch may conduct electronic surveillance outside FISA's express procedures if and when a subsequent statute authorizes such surveillance."

That "subsequent statute," the Justice Department says, is the Congressional Authorization of Force. But that authorization doesn't mention amending FISA. And on top of that, the Administration tried to get language into that authorization that would have permitted such warrantless eavesdropping, but the Senate didn't go along, as former Senator Tom Daschle has noted.

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the Administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text," Daschle wrote in The Washington Post on December 23. "I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Yet this is the very authority that the Justice Department now claims for the spying!

Nor has the Administration sought to amend FISA to reflect its current interpretation.

Why bother? Instead, it pulls out this trump card: Even "if FISA could not be read to allow the President to authorize the NSA activities during the current Congressionally authorized armed conflict with Al Qaeda, FISA would be unconstitutional."

Why? Because it interferes with the President's power as Commander in Chief.

Here the Justice Department shows just how unlimited it believes that power is.

"The President has inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches and surveillance within the United States for foreign intelligence purposes," the Justice Department asserts. It says there is a "serious constitutional" question as to whether such spying "is such a core exercise of Commander in Chief control over the Armed Forces during armed conflict that Congress cannot interfere with it at all."

Clearly, the Justice Department believes that to be the case. "The NSA activities lie at the very core of the Commander in Chief power," it states. This is especially true in wartime, it argues.

But get this: The Justice Department thinks the President may be able to spy on us without warrants even when there is no war!

"Even outside the context of wartime surveillance of the enemy, the source and scope of Congress's power to restrict the President's inherent authority to conduct foreign intelligence is unclear," it states. "The President's role as sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs has long been recognized as carrying with it preeminent authority in the field of national security and foreign intelligence . . . . It is clear that some Presidential authorities in this context are beyond Congress's ability to regulate."

Then some fancy legal footwork. The Justice Department argues that because of the legal doctrine of "constitutional avoidance," whereby when there's a clash between statutes that could create a constitutional dispute, those statutes should be read in such a way as to avoid the collision, the FISA act and the authorization of force must be interpreted the President's way.

"Even if these provisions were ambiguous, any doubt as to whether the AUMF and FISA should be understood to allow the President to make tactical military decisions to authorize surveillance outside the parameters of FISA must be resolved to avoid the serious constitutional questions that a contrary interpretation would raise," it states.

How convenient!

The Justice Department also willfully and repeatedly misreads the Supreme Court's 2004 Hamdi decision, the one in which Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the majority, said, "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens."

The Justice Department said the Hamdi decision affirms that the Congressional authorization of force "gave its express approval to the military conflict against Al Qaeda and its allies and thereby to the President's use of all traditional accepted incidents of force in this current military conflict--including warrantless electronic surveillance to intercept enemy communications both at home and abroad."

But the Court did not, even by inference, endorse such surveillance.

Hamdi was captured on the battlefield opposing the Untied States, and the Court stressed that in this "limited category," the detention of such a person "is so fundamental and accepted an incident to war as to be an exercise of the 'necessary and appropriate force' Congress has authorized the President to use."

It's quite a reach from holding a battlefield combatant to eavesdropping on U.S. citizens, especially when Congress had the opportunity to give the President such authority and declined to do so. The Court in Hamdi also intentionally sidestepped questions about the reach of the President's commander in chief powers.

And the Court in Hamdi affirmed the role of the judiciary, a role that Bush wants to cut out as far as NSA spying goes. "We necessarily reject the Government's assertion that separation of powers principles mandate a heavily circumscribed role for the courts," O'Connor wrote. And she explicitly warned about an Executive Branch approach that "serves only to condense power into a single branch of government." (O'Connor italicized the word "condense.")

In its totality, the Justice Department's defense of NSA spying is dishonest and disgraceful. It betrays a lack of respect for our system of checks and balances. And it would empower the President to spy on us any time he want --without a warrant--during wartime and peacetime. Congress and the courts cannot let this stand.

Coach Bumps Muslim Running Back

This was supposed to be Muammar Ali's year at New Mexico State. "Muammar Ali, who led the team with 561 yards rushing, will get even more opportunities," predicted SI.com in its NCAA football preview.

But he has no opportunities now. He's off the team.

On October 9, he "received a message on his phone answering machine at his home that his jersey was being pulled and that he was released," says a letter from his attorney, George Bach, of the ACLU of New Mexico, to the university. That letter, dated October 25, alleges that Head Coach Hal Mumme engaged in religious discrimination.

"Coach Mumme questioned Mr. Ali repeatedly about Islam and specifically, its ties to Al-Qaeda," the letter states. This made Mr. Ali uncomfortable, it says. And then, after the team's first game, "despite being the star tailback for several years, Mr. Ali was relegated to fifth string and not even permitted to travel with the team," the letter says.

There were only two other Muslim players on the team, and they were also released, it says. The letter adds that the coach "regularly has players recite the Lord's Prayer after each practice and before each game."

Ali's father, Mustafa Ali, says the trouble started at a practice over the summer when the coach told the players to pray.

"My son and two other players who were Muslim, they were praying in a different manner, and the coach asked them, 'What are you doing?' They said, 'We're Muslims. This is how we pray.' That had a lot to do with how things went south." Mustafa Ali says things escalated after his son had a personal meeting with Coach Mumme where the coach "questioned him about Al-Islam and Al-Qaeda." His son talked to him about the conversation.

"He told me it was very weird," Mustafa Ali recalls. "It disturbed him quite a bit. He didn't understand why it had anything to do with football."

After that meeting, the coach "never spoke to my son again," Mustafa Ali says. "And as they moved into summer camp football, my son noticed that he wasn't getting the ball as much and wasn't playing as big a role," he says.

This surprised Mustafa Ali.

"In 2004, he was honorable mention All American in his sophomore year," he says. "He was the fastest, strongest, quickest person on the team."

Mustafa Ali says his son sensed there was something wrong.

When his son got cut, "he was upset, he was upset. The coach never gave a reason. None."

I asked to speak to Muammar Ali, but Mustafa Ali said that would not be possible. "He's not talking to the media at this time," he said. "He's a very shy person."

New Mexico State isn't talking, either.

"The university has received the grievance," says Jerry Nevarez, specialist at the Office of Institutional Equity at New Mexico State. "It is investigating the grievance, and it will have no further comment until the investigation is done."

Bruce Kite, the school's general counsel, did not return a phone call for comment. Tyler Dunkel, director of athletic media relations for New Mexico State, said: "We're not commenting on that because there's an investigation going on and to ensure the integrity of the investigation we're not commenting on it until the investigation is finished."

Dunkel expects that to be "in the next couple weeks."

I asked whether I could talk to Coach Mumme.

Said Dunkel: "No way."

The Puppet President

Bush didn't waste any time, did he?

He barely had rolled out of bed Monday morning when he rushed in front of the cameras to nominate Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

I've heard of changing the subject, but that's got to be an indoor record.

Fortunately, Scooter's indictment is not going to vanish in thin air, Fitzgerald's investigation continues, and Cheney is finally feeling some heat.

But Bush did what he could, and then genuflected to the anti-abortion zealots by giving them just what they wanted: a judge hostile to abortion rights.

As Senator Ted Kennedy put it, "President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing."

As if on cue, Senator Sam Brownback said, "I commend the President and congratulate Judge Alito."

While on the Third Circuit, Alito dissented in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Alone among the three-judge panel, he argued that it's OK to force a woman to get her husband's approval before she is allowed to have an abortion.

That put him at odds with the Supreme Court he hopes to join, since the Court ruled in Casey: "Women do not lose their constitutionally protected liberty when they marry."

Alito's confirmation "would radically transform the Supreme Court and create a direct threat to the health and safety of American women," says Karen Pearl, interim president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Alito's record in other respects raises eyebrows. (For a good rundown of his record, go to People for the American Way.)

Alito has been hostile to privacy rights and stingy when it comes to allowing people to sue for racial or gender or disability discrimination or to seek asylum.

In one case (Doe v. Groody), he dissented from a decision by the Third Circuit, which had ruled in favor of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter who were strip-searched by police after they entered the home on a drug warrant for the woman's husband. Alito said that even if the warrant did not authorize the search, "a reasonable police officer could certainly have read the warrant as doing so."

On several discrimination suits, Alito has ruled that plaintiffs need to clear an extremely high bar to bring their claims to court or to prevail there. Alito is "to the right of all nine justices, even Scalia and Thomas, in advocating an extremely high burden of proof for employment discrimination cases," says Marquette law professor Scott Moss.

In (Riley v. Taylor), an African American convicted of murder appealed, in part because blacks were excluded from his jury, according to People for the American Way. When he tried to show statistical evidence that blacks have been repeatedly dismissed from juries when the defendants were black, the defendant did not get a favorable hearing from Alito, who compared this analysis to one that tries to explain why a lot of recent Presidents have been left-handed. One of Alito's fellow judges, Delores Sloviter, scolded Alito for trying "to minimize the history of discrimination against prospective black jurors and black defendants."

In one immigration case (Dia v. Ashcroft), Saidou Dia, who was from Guinea, sought asylum because he said he had worked with "the opposition and his wife was raped and his house burnt down to intimidate him," according to People for the American Way. When he applied for refugee status, the immigration judge denied it, claiming he was not credible, and the Bureau of Immigration Appeals summarily affirmed the judge's ruling. The Third Circuit, with Alito dissenting, said the judge's decision was "at best unexplained and at worst speculative." The majority said Alito would have gutted "the statutory standard."

Finally, Alito, like Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia, once served in the Justice Department. And like Roberts, Alito worked in the Solicitor General's office, arguing for the federal government in cases before the Supreme Court. This experience makes him predisposed to favor the Executive Branch. And that's precisely what we don't need with the runaway executive we have right now.

"This is a pivotal moment in our nation's history," said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU's executive Director. "The Administration is claiming unprecedented national security powers, reproductive rights are in jeopardy, the teaching of evolution is under attack, and we continue to struggle with a legacy of discrimination. The Supreme Court remains the ultimate safeguard of our constitutional liberties. The Senate has an obligation to ensure that Judge Alito understands and will protect the court's vital position in our constitutional democracy."

Bush has forced a battle.

Senators of goodwill cannot shrink from it.

Forcing the Flag

Stephen Kobasa has been a Catholic schoolteacher for 25 years. For the last six years, he has taught English at Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport, CT.

He no longer teaches there.

Here's why.

Kobasa does not believe there should be an American flag in his classroom.

"Everything in the Gospel rejects what flags stand for: boundaries, hatreds, creation of enemies," Kobasa says. "For a Catholic Christian school that holds up the crucifix as a symbol of God's love, the flag can only be a contradiction. The Church can only function with its prophetic voice by standing outside the state."

For the past six years, whenever he found an American flag in his classroom he removed it, he says.

That never caused a problem until this semester, he adds. At a faculty meeting in August, he says, a new policy came down from the board of education at the Bridgeport diocese: The school day would begin with a prayer and a pledge of allegiance.

Kobasa, who is part of the extended community of the Hartford Catholic Worker and Jonah House in Baltimore, knew he would have trouble abiding by that. He hoped to negotiate some compromise.

"I met with the principal, and she said she was aware that I had not been doing the pledge, but that now there would be a problem because it was the policy," he recalls.

"So what I offered was an arrangement by which any students who wanted to make this oath of fealty could do so with a flag that they could have available. But only for the duration of the pledge itself, and then the flag would once again be removed."

The principal, Jo-Anne Jakab, went along, he says.

"She agreed to that," he says. "So I thought that was the end of it."

It wasn't.

"Ten days later, I was called down to her office, at which point she announces that this compromise, which she thought would be acceptable, is not," he recalls. The superintendent of schools, Dr. Margaret Dames, warned that "if I refused to accept the policy, that would be taken as an indication that I no longer wished to work for that school system."

Later, Kobasa asked to meet with the superintendent in her office.

He wished to explain that his action "was a longstanding, faith-based commitment and not a whim of mine or some excuse to be defiant," he says.

On September 30th, he met with Dr. Dames in her office. He says he was given "an edict: My obedience was expected."

Principal Jakab was at the meeting, as well, and, according to Kobasa, she said that "the following Monday there would be a flag in my room and I was expected to leave it there."

Kobasa said he decided to accept the decision "under protest and under duress," and he filed a grievance with his association of schoolteachers.

In his classroom, he attached two quotations to the flagpole.

One was from Paul's Letter to the Galatians: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

The other was from Father Thomas Merton: "We must remember that the Church does not belong to any political power bloc."

When Kobasa's teachers' association refused to back him up, however, he realized that his days as at Kolbe Cathedral High may be numbered.

So Kobasa wrote a letter to the head of the diocese, Bishop William Lori.

"Your Excellency: It is with both sorrow and dismay that I write you concerning the issues raised below, but I am convinced that it is my obligation to pursue every possible means of resolving this dispute in a spirit of Christian charity rather than confrontation," the letter began.

Kobasa wrote that to permanently display the flag in his classroom "would be to act against my conscience as a believing Roman Catholic Christian. My teaching can never take its legitimacy from any symbol except the Cross of Christ. To elevate any national emblem to that level would be for me to ignore the fundamental call of Jesus to compassion without boundaries."

Kobasa wrote that the threat of his dismissal "creates the unmistakable impression that national loyalty is being valued over faithful obedience to the Gospel."

He did not get a response from the bishop.

Knowing that his options were running out, Kobasa decided to take a stand.

At a faculty meeting on October 12, he asked to speak. "This is likely to be my last meeting with this faculty," Kobasa remembers saying. "I made it clear that I had never imposed my views on anyone, but that I expected my own conscience to be honored, and since it was not I would have to take action to preserve it."

Kobasa says this was his way "to give the principal some notice that I was not simply going to resign myself to the policy."

The next morning, October 13, Kobasa did not hesitate.

"I went directly to my classroom and removed the flag and brought it to Mrs. Jakab and said I could not have it in the same room with the crucifix which was the image of my faith," he says. "She asked me if I understood the consequence of this. And I assured her I did."

Kobasa was given till the end of the day to leave.

"It was a gift," he says. "I was able to explain to my students what had happened and why I was making the choice I was, and to tell them what a loss it was for me to not be able to continue with them."

Some students "were extremely upset," he says. "I was really stunned by the kinds of testimony I was getting." A few held signs in his defense, including, "Save Mr. Kobasa," he recalls. "I don't know if it was about salvation in the absolute sense, but I felt very good about it."

Principal Jakab, Superintendent Dames, and Bishop Lori could not be reached for comment. When I called them, I was referred each time to Joseph McAleer, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport.

McAleer refused to answer questions but referred me to a statement on the website of the diocese.

Here is the entire statement: "It is with regret that we confirm that Mr. Stephen Kobasa is no longer a member of the faculty of Kolbe Cathedral High School in Bridgeport.

It is not our policy to comment on any internal personnel matter. Our Catholic Schools provide a dynamic learning environment in which respect for the opinions of others as well as respect for school property are both key components. The Diocese of Bridgeport has long believed that the American flag is an important fixture in its Catholic School classrooms."

Kobasa and his wife have two daughters, seventeen and fifteen. "Our eldest had to amend her college application to read 'former high school teacher' under father's occupation," he says.

Asked what he is planning to do next, Kobasa says: "I don't know. You got any work? Seriously, I'm just sort of breathing in and breathing out. It's tough for us all. It's an anxious time. The practical terms are not going to be easy. But compared to the sacrifices others have made. . . ."

Stripping Rumsfeld and Bush of Impunity

When Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee last year, he was asked whether he "ordered or approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation by guard dogs, excessive noise, and inducing fear as an interrogation method for a prisoner in Abu Ghraib prison."

Sanchez, who was head of the Pentagon's Combined Joint Task Force-7 in Iraq, swore the answer was no. Under oath, he told the Senators he "never approved any of those measures to be used."

But a document the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained from the Pentagon flat out contradicts Sanchez's testimony. It's a memorandum entitled "CJTF-7 Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy," dated September 14, 2003. In it, Sanchez approved several methods designed for "significantly increasing the fear level in a detainee." These included "sleep management"; "yelling, loud music, and light control: used to create fear, disorient detainee, and prolong capture shock"; and "presence of military working dogs: exploits Arab fear of dogs."

On March 30, the ACLU wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, urging him "to open an investigation into whether General Ricardo A. Sanchez committed perjury in his sworn testimony."

The problem is, Gonzales may himself have committed perjury in his Congressional testimony this January.

According to a March 6 article in The New York Times, Gonzales submitted written testimony that said: "The policy of the United States is not to transfer individuals to countries where we believe they likely will be tortured, whether those individuals are being transferred from inside or outside the United States." He added that he was "not aware of anyone in the executive branch authorizing any transfer of a detainee in violation of that policy."

"That's a clear, absolute lie," says Michael Ratner, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who is suing Administration officials for their involvement in the torture scandal. "The Administration has a policy of sending people to countries where there is a likelihood that they will be tortured."

The New York Times article backs up Ratner's claim. It says "a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the September 11 attacks" gave the CIA broad authority to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogations. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International estimate that the United States has transferred between 100 and 150 detainees to countries notorious for torture.

So Gonzales may not be the best person to evaluate the allegation of perjury against Sanchez.

But going after Sanchez or Gonzales for perjury is the least of it. Sanchez may be personally culpable for war crimes and torture, according to Human Rights Watch. And Gonzales himself was one of the legal architects of the torture policies. As such, he may have been involved in "a conspiracy to immunize U.S. agents from criminal liability for torture and war crimes under U.S. law," according to Amnesty International's recent report: "Guantánamo and Beyond: The Continuing Pursuit of Unchecked Executive Power."

As White House Counsel, Gonzales advised President Bush to not apply Geneva Convention protections to detainees captured in Afghanistan, in part because this "substantially reduces the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act," Gonzales wrote in his January 25, 2002, memo to the President.

Gonzales's press office refused to provide comment after several requests from The Progressive. In his Senate confirmation testimony, Gonzales said, "I want to make very clear that I am deeply committed to the rule of law. I have a deep and abiding commitment to the fundamental American principle that we are a nation of laws, and not of men."

Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel John Skinner says the ACLU's suggestion that Sanchez committed perjury is "absolutely ridiculous." In addition, Skinner pointed to a recent Army inspector general report that looked into Sanchez's role. "Every senior-officer allegation was formally investigated," the Army said in a May 5 summary. Sanchez was investigated, it said, for "dereliction in the performance of duties pertaining to detention and interrogation operations" and for "improperly communicating interrogation policies." The inspector general "found each of the allegations unsubstantiated."

The Bush Administration's legal troubles don't end with Sanchez or Gonzales. They go right to the top: to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush himself. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA say there is "prima facie" evidence against Rumsfeld for war crimes and torture. And Amnesty International USA says there is also "prima facie" evidence against Bush for war crimes and torture. (According to Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, "prima facie evidence" is "evidence sufficient to establish a fact or to raise a presumption of fact unless rebutted.")

Amnesty International USA has even taken the extraordinary step of calling on officials in other countries to apprehend Bush and Rumsfeld and other high-ranking members of the Administration who have played a part in the torture scandal.

Foreign governments should "uphold their obligations under international law by investigating U.S. officials implicated in the development or implementation of interrogation techniques that constitute torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment," the group said in a May 25 statement. William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, added, "If the United States permits the architects of torture policy to get off scot-free, then other nations will be compelled" to take action.

The Geneva Conventions and the torture treaty "place a legally binding obligation on states that have ratified them to exercise universal jurisdiction over persons accused of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions," Amnesty International USA said. "If anyone suspected of involvement in the U.S. torture scandal visits or transits through foreign territories, governments could take legal steps to ensure that such individuals are investigated and charged with applicable crimes."

When these two leading human rights organizations make such bold claims about the President and the Secretary of Defense, we need to take the question of executive criminality seriously.

And we have to ask ourselves, where is the accountability? Who has the authority to ascertain whether these high officials committed war crimes and torture, and if they did, to bring them to justice?

The independent counsel law is no longer on the books, so that can't be relied on. Attorney General Gonzales is not about to investigate himself, Rumsfeld, or his boss. And Republicans who control Congress have shown no interest in pursuing the torture scandal, much less drawing up bills of impeachment.

Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU, the American Bar Association, and Human Rights First (formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights) have joined in a call for a special prosecutor. But that decision is up to Gonzales and ultimately Bush.

"It's a complete joke" to expect Gonzales to appoint a special prosecutor, concedes Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

John Sifton, Afghanistan specialist and military affairs researcher for Human Rights Watch, is not so sure. "Do I think this would happen right now? No," he says. "But in the middle of the Watergate scandal, very few people thought the President would resign." If more information comes out, and if the American public demands an investigation, and if there is a change in the control of the Senate, Sifton believes Gonzales may end up with little choice.

Human Rights Watch and other groups are also calling for Congress to appoint an independent commission, similar to the 9/11 one, to investigate the torture scandal.

"Unless a special counsel or an independent commission are named, and those who designed or authorized the illegal policies are held to account, all the protestations of 'disgust' at the Abu Ghraib photos by President George W. Bush and others will be meaningless," concludes Human Rights Watch's April report "Getting Away with Torture? Command Responsibility for the U.S. Abuse of Detainees."

But even as it denounces the "substantial impunity that has prevailed until now," Human Rights Watch is not sanguine about the likelihood of such inquiries. "There are obviously steep political obstacles in the way of investigating a sitting Defense Secretary," it notes in its report.

By not pursuing senior officials who may have been involved in ordering war crimes or torture, the United States may be further violating international law, according to Human Rights Watch. "Each State Party shall ensure that its competent authorities proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, whenever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction," says the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The Geneva Conventions have a similar requirement.

Stymied by the obstacles along the customary routes of accountability, the ACLU and Human Rights First are suing Rumsfeld in civil court on behalf of plaintiffs who have been victims of torture. The Center for Constitutional Rights is suing on behalf of a separate group of clients. The center also filed a criminal complaint in Germany against Rumsfeld and Gonzales, along with nine others. The center argued that Germany was "a court of last resort," since "the U.S. government is not willing to open an investigation into these allegations against these officials." The case was dismissed.

Amnesty International's call for foreign countries to nab Rumsfeld and Bush also seems unlikely to be heeded any time soon. How, physically, could another country arrest Bush, for instance? And which country would want to face the wrath of Washington for doing so?

But that we have come this far--where the only option for justice available seems to be to rely on officials of other governments to apprehend our own--is a damning indictment in and of itself.

The case against Rumsfeld may be the most substantial of all. While "expressing no opinion about the ultimate guilt or innocence" of Rumsfeld, Human Rights Watch is urging his prosecution under the War Crimes Act of 1996 and the Anti-Torture Act of 1996. Under these statutes, a "war crime" is any "grave breach" of common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment," as well as torture and murder. A "grave breach," according to U.S. law, includes "willful killing, torture, or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war and of other 'protected persons,' " Human Rights Watch explains in "Getting Away with Torture?"

Rumsfeld faces jeopardy for being head of the Defense Department when those directly under him committed grave offenses. And he may be liable for actions he himself undertook.

"Secretary Rumsfeld may bear legal liability for war crimes and torture by U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo under the doctrine of 'command responsibility'--the legal principle that holds a superior responsible for crimes committed by his subordinates when he knew or should have known that they were being committed but fails to take reasonable measures to stop them," Human Rights Watch says in its report.

But Rumsfeld's potential liability may be more direct than simply being the guy in charge who didn't stop the torture and mistreatment once he learned about it.

First of all, when the initial reports of prisoner mistreatment came in, he mocked the concerns of human rights groups as "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation." He also asserted that "unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention," even though, as Human Rights Watch argues, "the Geneva Conventions provide explicit protections to all persons captured in an international armed conflict, even if they are not entitled to POW status."

Secondly, he himself issued a list of permissible interrogation techniques in a December 2, 2002, directive that likely violated the Geneva Conventions, according to Human Rights Watch. Among those techniques: "The use of stress positions (like standing) for a maximum of four hours." On the directive, Rumsfeld, incidentally, added in his own handwriting next to this technique: "However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" He also included the following techniques: "removal of all comfort items (including religious items)," "deprivation of light and auditory stimuli," "isolation up to 30 days," and "using detainees' individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress."

On January 15, 2003, Rumsfeld rescinded this directive after the Navy registered its adamant objections. If, during the six weeks that Rumsfeld's techniques were official Pentagon policy at Guantánamo, soldiers mistreated or tortured prisoners using his approved techniques, then "Rumsfeld could potentially bear direct criminal responsibility, as opposed to command responsibility," says Human Rights Watch.

Rumsfeld may also bear direct responsibility for the torture or abuse of two other prisoners, says Human Rights Watch, citing the Church Report. (This report, one of Rumsfeld's many internal investigations, was conducted by the Navy Inspector General Vice Admiral Albert Church.) "The Secretary of Defense approved specific interrogation plans for two 'high-value detainees' " at Guantánamo, the Church Report noted. Those plans, it added, "employed several of the counter resistance techniques found in the December 2, 2002, [policy]. . . . These interrogations were sufficiently aggressive that they highlighted the difficult question of precisely defining the boundaries of humane treatment of detainees."

And Rumsfeld may be in legal trouble for hiding detainees from the Red Cross. "Secretary Rumsfeld has publicly admitted that . . . he ordered an Iraqi national held in Camp Cropper, a high security detention center in Iraq, to be kept off the prison's rolls and not presented to the International Committee of the Red Cross," Human Rights Watch notes. This prisoner, according to The New York Times, was kept off the books for at least seven months.

The Geneva Conventions require countries to grant access to the Red Cross to all detainees, wherever they are being held. As Human Rights Watch explains, "Visits may only be prohibited for'reasons of imperative military necessity' and then only as'an exceptional and temporary measure.'"

The last potential legal problem for Rumsfeld is his alleged involvement in creating a "secret access program," or SAP. According to reporter Seymour Hersh, Rumsfeld "authorized the establishment of a highly secret program that was given blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate 'high value' targets in the war on terror." Human Rights Watch says that "if Secretary Rumsfeld did, in fact, approve such a program, he would bear direct liability, as opposed to command responsibility, for war crimes and torture committed by the SAP."

The Pentagon vehemently denies the allegation that Rumsfeld may have committed war crimes. "It's absurd," says Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Skinner. "The facts speak for themselves. We have aggressively investigated all allegations of detainee mistreatment. We have had ten major investigations on everything from A to Z. We've also had more than 350 criminal investigations looking into detainee abuse. More than 103 individuals have been held accountable for actions related to detainee mistreatment. Our policy has always been, and will always remain, the humane treatment of detainees."

What about Bush? If Donald Rumsfeld can be charged for war crimes because of his command responsibility and his personal involvement in giving orders, why can't the commander in chief? Hina Shansi, senior counsel at Human Rights First, believes the case against Bush is much more difficult to document. And Sifton of Human Rights Watch says that since Bush is known as "a major delegator," it may be hard to pin down "what he's briefed on and what role he plays in the decision-making process."

Amnesty International USA, however, believes that Bush, by his own involvement in formulating policy on torture, may have committed war crimes. "It's the memos, the meetings, the public statements," says Alistair Hodgett, media director of Amnesty International USA.

There is "prima facie evidence that senior members of the U.S. Administration, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, have authorized human rights violations, including 'disappearances and torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,' " Amnesty states in "Guantánamo and Beyond."

The first solid piece of evidence against Bush is his September 17, 2001, "Memorandum of Notification" that unleashed the CIA. According to Bob Woodward's book Bush at War, that memo "authorized the CIA to operate freely and fully in Afghanistan with its own paramilitary teams" and to go after Al Qaeda "on a worldwide scale, using lethal covert action to keep the role of the United States hidden."

Two days before at Camp David, then-CIA Director George Tenet had outlined some of the additional powers he wanted, Woodward writes. These included the power to " 'buy' key intelligence services. . . . Several intelligence services were listed: Egypt, Jordan, Algeria. Acting as surrogates for the United States, these services could triple or quadruple the CIA's resources." According to Woodward, Tenet was upfront with Bush about the risks entailed: "It would put the United States in league with questionable intelligence services, some of them with dreadful human rights records. Some had reputations for ruthlessness and using torture to obtain confessions. Tenet acknowledged that these were not people you were likely to be sitting next to in church on Sunday. Look, I don't control these guys all the time, he said. Bush said he understood the risks."

That this was Administration policy is clear from comments Vice President Dick Cheney made on Meet the Press the very next day.

"We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will," Cheney told Tim Russert. "We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."

If, as The New York Times reported, Bush authorized the transfer of detainees to countries where torture is routine, he appears to be in grave breach of international law.

Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture explicitly prohibits this: "No State Party shall expel, return, or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture." Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions is also clear: "Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive."

On February 7, 2002, Bush issued another self-incriminating memorandum. This one was to the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Director of the CIA, the National Security Adviser, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was entitled "Humane Treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban Detainees." In it, Bush asserted that "none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world." He also declared, "I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan," though he declined to do so. And he said that "common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to either Al Qaeda or Taliban."

This memo "set the stage for the tragic abuse of detainees," says William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

Bush failed to recognize that the Geneva Conventions provide universal protections. "The Conventions and customary law still provide explicit protections to all persons held in an armed conflict," Human Rights Watch says in its report, citing the "fundamental guarantees" in Article 75 of Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions. That article prohibits "torture of all kinds, whether physical or mental," "corporal punishment," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment."

In the February 7, 2002, memo, Bush tried to give himself cover by stating that "our values as a Nation, values that we share with many nations in the world, call for us to treat detainees humanely, including those who are not entitled to such treatment." He added that the United States, "to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity," would abide by the principles of the Geneva Conventions.

But this only made matters worse. His assertion that there are some detainees who are not entitled to be treated humanely is an affront to international law, as is his claim that the Geneva Conventions can be made subordinate to military necessity.

The Geneva Conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture all prohibit the torture and abuse that the United States has been inflicting on detainees. Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture states that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture."

Article VI of the Constitution makes treaties "the supreme law of the land," and the President swears an oath to see that the laws are faithfully executed.

As more information comes out, the case against Bush could get even stronger, says Sifton of Human Rights Watch. If, for instance, Bush said at Camp David on September 15, 2001, or at another meeting, "Take the gloves off," or something to that effect, he would be even more implicated. "Obviously, if he did make such an explicit order, his complicity would be shown," says Sifton. Somehow, that message was conveyed down the line. "There was a before-9/11 and an after-9/11," Cofer Black, who was director of the CIA's counterterrorist unit, told Congress in 2002. "After 9/11, the gloves came off."

The White House press office refused to return five phone calls from The Progressive seeking comment about the allegations against Bush. At his daily press briefing on May 25, the President's Press Secretary Scott McClellan was not asked specifically about Bush's culpability but about Amnesty International's general charge that the United States is a chief offender of human rights.

"The allegations are ridiculous and unsupported by the facts," McClellan said. "The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated fifty million people in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . We're also leading the way when it comes to spreading compassion."

Amnesty International USA does not intend to back off. "Our call is for the United States to step up to its responsibilities and investigate these matters first," Executive Director Schulz says. "And if that doesn't happen, then indeed, we are calling upon foreign governments to take on their responsibility and to investigate the apparent architects of torture."

Inquiries to the embassies of Belgium, Chile, France, Germany, South Africa, and Venezuela, as well as to the government of Canada, while met with some amusement, did not reveal any inclination to heed Amnesty's call.

Schulz is not deterred. Acknowledging that the possibility of a foreign government seizing Rumsfeld or Bush might not be "an immediate reality," Schulz takes the long view: "Let's keep in mind, there are no statutes of limitations here."

Tales of Big Brother

Editor's Note: Since the 9/11 attacks, many of our Orwellian nightmares have come true: Innocent people rounded up in police sweeps; detainees held without evidence or access to a lawyer for months on end; and the rapid erosion of our most basic right to privacy. We didn't think it could get worse until the FBI decided to target dissent in the name of national security. In the lead up to the Democratic and now Republican conventions, scores of activists have heard the proverbial knock on the door. These are just three of the very many stories of harrasment and intimidation that mark a new low for American democracy.

A Visit from Agent Faul

Paul Bame is a 45-year-old software engineer in Fort Collins, Colorado. He's also a nonviolent political activist. On the afternoon of July 22, an FBI agent named Ted Faul called Bame's home, he says. "He left a message on my machine saying that he wanted to talk to me about something," Bame recalls. "I was afraid."

Bame went to work the next day and took a break for lunch. "When I got back to work, there was a security guard offering to escort me to the lobby to talk to somebody named Ted," he says.

Bame met Agent Faul.

"He said the visit was not supposed to be embarrassing or accusatory," Bame recalls. "But of course, it seems pretty embarrassing and accusatory to have the FBI visit you at your place of work. At some companies, I might have lost my job. That didn't happen here, thank goodness."

Agent Faul gave some indication of why he was interested in speaking to Bame. "He said my name came up at headquarters as someone who might have information about plans for mayhem at the conventions," Bame says. "He wondered if I had that information. And I responded that I'd be happy to discuss this with him with a lawyer present."

Agent Faul pressed on, according to Bame: "He said, 'Is there any particular piece of this that you think you need a lawyer present for?' "

Bame says he responded: "Whenever questioned by the FBI, I think it's wise to have a lawyer present."

And that was pretty much the end of the encounter, he says.

The New York Times reported on Aug. 16 that "the FBI has been questioning political protesters across the country" about events planned at the conventions. That article said that civil rights advocates believe that "at least 40 or 50 people, and perhaps more," have been visited by the FBI.

Bame was one of them.

"We were conducting Joint Terrorism Task Force interviews throughout the nation," says Monique Kelso, a spokeswoman for the Denver FBI office. "We were following up on leads of potential individuals that could possibly have information about disruption or possible illegal activity at the conventions or upcoming elections."

The ACLU condemns the FBI for the interviews. "These JTTF visits are an abuse of power," says Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado. They are designed, he says, to intimidate people "from exercising their constitutional right to protest government policies and associate with others who want to protest government policies."

Bame agrees. "I was scared to death the whole time," he says. "I felt in my bones it was a scare tactic, it was intimidation. It's really disgusting that explicitly nonviolent protesters are getting questioned as if they're terrorists."

Bame says he worries about the chilling effect. "It makes people feel pretty bad if one of their neighbors is visited by the FBI," he says. "They start to wonder, 'Am I going to be next?' "

Bame says he has been arrested twice at demonstrations. The first time was at the World Bank-IMF protests in September 2002. "I pleaded guilty to parading without a permit because I didn't want to take the time to contest the charge," he says. "It was just an infraction, and I was fined $50."

The second was at the Miami-FTAA fiasco in November. "Several days before the demonstration, I and four others were arrested on a public sidewalk in the Miami business district," he says. "We were charged with obstructing the sidewalk. It was a completely fictitious charge. And the case was dismissed." Bame has joined a class action suit against the Miami police department.

Even though he was shaken up by his encounter with the FBI, Bame is not going to stop protesting. "Despite my fear," he says, "I'm going to New York."

'Community Outreach' in Denver

On Aug. 16, Eric Lichtblau of The New York Times revealed that the FBI has been "questioning political demonstrators" about major events this election season. He mentioned Sarah Bardwell, a 21-year-old intern at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Denver. I spoke with Bardwell on Aug. 20.

Four FBI agents and two Denver police officers came to her home on July 22, at about 4:30 in the afternoon, she recalls. "One guy was in all swat, dressed in black, with six guns on him," she says.

They gathered Bardwell's housemates together.

"They told us they were 'doing community outreach' but then they said they were doing 'preemptive investigations' into possible or suspected 'anarchists, terrorists, and murderers,' " she recalls.

"I told them maybe they should talk to the Denver police because they recently shot a man in my neighborhood," she says.

The FBI agents then began to probe about upcoming political events. "They asked us if we were planning any criminal actions at the Republican National Convention, the Democratic National Convention, and the inauguration," she says. "And then they asked us if we knew anyone who was planning such actions. And they told us if we withheld this information, that was a crime."

Bardwell and her housemates refused to answer. (She says, though, that "no one at the house was planning on going to the conventions. It's really weird.") She says the officers "were vigorously taking notes and looking into our house and at our bicycles." One of her housemates asked them if they had a warrant, and they responded something like this, Bardwell says: " 'Oh, we don't need a warrant. We're just here to talk. It's a friendly visit.' "

There was some banter back and forth, she recalls. "They asked us what our names were," she says. "We told them they probably knew our names, but we didn't give them to them. We asked for their names, but they said they wouldn't give us theirs if we didn't give them ours."

But then the conversation turned ominous. "They told us they were going to have to take 'more intrusive efforts' because they took the fact that we were not answering their questions as noncooperation," she says. "I asked if that was a threat. They denied that it was. And they left shortly after that, saying something like, 'We'll see you later.' And me thinking, 'I hope not.' "

Looking back, Bardwell recognizes how scared she was. "I was afraid the whole time, afraid of what they were going to do to my house, afraid of my safety and my future," she says. "It's a really scary thing to have the FBI say they're going to be more intrusive than coming to your house!"

When the FBI left, her roommates all expressed "shock and fear and anger," she says. One said: "I can't fucking believe that just happened," Bardwell recalls, adding: " 'Is this 1984 or what?' got said probably a million times."

While the FBI and Denver police were descending on Bardwell's home, another team appeared at their friends' house down the street. "They had a much more aggressive experience than we had," she says. "The officers were more threatening. And one officer was moving to pull his gun out when one friend was trying to get their ID from the kitchen counter."

Joe Parris, an FBI spokesman in Washington, told The New York Times about the visits across the country: "No one was dragged from their homes and put under bright lights. The interviewees were free to talk to us or close the door in our faces."

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, says this case is "especially sensitive" because the Denver police settled a lawsuit with the ACLU of Colorado in the spring of 2003 with an agreement not to spy on Denver dissidents. Silverstein wants to know why two Denver police officers participated in this action.

So does Bardwell.

"The Denver police are not allowed to be spying on us, and yet they were at our house," she says.

Bardwell has since received an e-mail from Lieutenant Stephens of the Denver Police Internal Affairs Bureau.

"I want to assure you that the Denver Police Department takes these types of allegations very seriously," the e-mail reads. "If you feel that the Denver officers acted inappropriately, please contact the Internal Affairs Bureau at any time to discuss the incident."

Bardwell is not sure how she is going to proceed at this point. She says she is still trying to process what happened.

"I was so shocked through the whole thing," she says. "There's definitely a culture among activists of expecting this kind of behavior. But it's a completely different thing when it happens to you."

Tailed by the FBI

The FBI trailed and interrogated three young men from Kirksville, Missouri, in July, and talked to their parents. The activists were then subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury on the very day they were planning to be in Boston for a protest at the Democratic National Convention.

The New York Times had one sentence on this in its pathbreaking August 16 story. Here are the details, according to Denise Lieberman, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri, which is representing the three men.

The men are 20, 22, and 24 years old, and they all have attended Truman State University. One is still there.

"In the week leading up to the Democratic National Convention, the parents of each of the three were visited by agents of the FBI identifying themselves as members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force," says Lieberman. "They said they were there to get their sons' current contact information and to ask some questions about their sons' political affiliations."

The three young men, who have not released their names yet, were "visited by an FBI agent in Kirksville, who was accompanied by a local police officer," Lieberman says.

"They were asked three questions: " 'Are you aware of any criminally disruptive activity being planned either for the Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention, the Presidential debates, the elections, or any other related event?' 

" 'If you did know, would you tell us?'

" 'Are you aware, if you have such knowledge or were planning on participating in such activities and you don't tell us, that you can be charged with a crime?' "

Lieberman says that each of the young men refused to answer the questions without having an attorney present.

Two things make this case even more alarming than other similar incidents around the country, she says.

The first is that her clients were subpoenaed, and as a consequence could not go to their intended protest.

"On Monday, July 26, my clients received a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury, and at the same time they received a target letter saying they were a target of the investigation," says Lieberman. "They were ordered to appear on Thursday, July 29, which was the same date they were scheduled to appear in Boston for a protest. It certainly had the effect of preventing them from attending the protest."

Lieberman says that neither the subpoena nor the target letter offered specific information about particular incidents of alleged criminal activity. And she said the prosecutor refused to grant her clients an extension.

The second distinctive characteristic of this case, Lieberman says, is that her clients were repeatedly and overtly tailed.

"Our clients were put under 24-hour surveillance," she says. "It began approximately Sunday July 25th. At that point, they all had come to St. Louis. They noticed cars in front of the house where they were staying, at least three at any given time. One was a dark SUV, one was a GMC suburban, one was a silver truck. Sometimes there were other cars. They were there for a period of five days, and they followed them everywhere they went."

Lieberman says her clients would drive around their block four times, and the FBI would be there behind them. Undercover agents also followed them to the grocery store and even to her ACLU office.

"It was very overt," she says. "This was perhaps the most jarring to my clients. It was really, really rattling to them. The agents were making no attempt to keep the surveillance covert. This was having a significant intimidation effect not just on our clients but also on other people in that house. Our clients were afraid to call and meet their girlfriends, because they didn't want their girlfriends followed."

One member of the house who was not involved with the planned protest in Boston "was followed to work at his local grocery store and was taken aside by his supervisor," she says. "This person felt that perhaps his job could be jeopardized."

Lieberman says she is very troubled by the government's tactics.

The use of surveillance and even a subpoena as an apparent tool to prevent people from going to a protest violates the First Amendment, she believes.

"It's one thing if you go to a protest and engage in illegal activity like civil disobedience, where you know you could be subject to arrest. And police have every right if people do that to arrest them," she says. "But it's quite another thing to stop them before the protest and question them and take steps to intimidate them or prevent them from going in the first place."

And the intimidation extended beyond her clients.

"There were about 10 people who were supposed to go with them to Boston, and all of them cancelled," she says. "That makes the chilling effect greater."

Joe Parris, a spokesman for the FBI in Washington, told The New York Times: "The FBI isn't in the business of chilling anyone's First Amendment rights. But criminal behavior isn't covered by the First Amendment. What we're concerned about are injuries to convention participants, injuries to citizens, injuries to police and first responders."

But Lieberman says her clients hadn't engaged in criminal activity and were simply trying to exercise their First Amendment rights.

"The FBI," says Lieberman, "is sending a message not just to those targeted but to those around them: If you are outspoken, an FBI file may be opened on you or you might expect to see an FBI agent knocking on your door."

The Lessons of Howard Dean

Howard Dean's campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination stirred the passions of millions of people. It was a progressive, grassroots campaign that was anti-war at its core and anti-establishment in its orientation. The former Vermont governor may not have been as progressive as his followers, but he seemed to move toward them during the run-up to the primaries. And he distinguished himself with his candor. Though his campaign foundered in the cornfields of Iowa (with a push and a shove from the mainstream media), Dean did not give up his hope of establishing an enduring organization to carry forward some of his goals.

That organization is Democracy for America. It hopes to elect candidates around the country, and it vows to promote grassroots democracy, to campaign for progressive policies, and to fight against "the far right wing and their radical, divisive policies, and the selfish special interests who for too long have dominated politics." I had the following telephone interview with Dean on April 19. He was his old blunt self.

What happened to your campaign in hindsight?

Howard:
Oh, I haven't spent a lot of time delving into all that. Everybody makes mistakes, but probably the biggest one was the spat with Gephardt at the end. He attacked us, and we chose to respond to him.

Is going negative a response that doesn't work anymore?

It always works, but never in a multicandidate race. The ones who aren't going negative get the benefit.

There is some speculation, perhaps idle in the press, that you were self-sabotaging, that you really didn't want to win, and the closer you came to getting the nomination, the more gaffes you committed.

That was pretty silly. That's one of the problems with the media. There's a lot of opinion pieces under the guise of news, and once one person comes up with it, it gets repeated. Most of that started out in gossip columns in The Washington Post. The idea that someone is going to spend two years and $50 million and doesn't really care is pretty silly.

What do you make of the way the press treated you?

I think the press in general is a failed institution in this country. For two reasons. This has nothing to do with the race. I'm not sure it would have made any difference. But the biggest problem with the media is first that 90 percent of Americans get their news from eleven corporations so that the loyalty in the editorial staff and higher up is principally to the shareholders rather than to the public. And the second problem is that entertainment has supplanted news value.

A lot of your supporters feel the press had it in for you, or did you in. Do you agree?

You know, I don't know. I think the older supporters may feel that way. The younger supporters tend to ignore the press. The pitfall of what's happening in the media is if you're under thirty, you get your news from the Internet and The Daily Show, and there's not much discrimination between what they find on the front page of The New York Times and what they find on the Internet. That's not a bad thing, in the sense that people don't get spoon-fed anymore.

The Daily Show may be savvier than some of that other stuff.

Oh, I don't know, I don't get to watch The Daily Show.

I don't think there's much legitimacy to that. I'm sure there were personal factors involved, but I'm not one who buys the notion of a media conspiracy. I think there are different views in the media, from Fox News to The New York Times, from The Weekly Standard to The Nation. But I don't think there's an ideological conspiracy in the media to keep certain candidates out. I really don't.

Can any candidate tell the truth on a controversial topic like the capture of Saddam Hussein and not get burned?

I don't really think that hurt me all that much. Most people in America knew it was true. I think the media is very much like the inside-the-Beltway crowd. They're not average Americans themselves. They're under a lot of pressure from editors and publishers. And I don't think they relate to most ordinary people. When I said that I didn't think the capture of Saddam Hussein made us any safer, though I congratulated the troops for doing it, average Americans thought to themselves, yeah, that's probably right. And certainly, two weeks later they certainly thought that was right since we had just lost an additional thirty troops.

Or they've got to think it's right now.

Yeah, I think they do. I'm not a subscriber to any of that stuff being what hurt the campaign. I'm really not. The concerted attacks of the other candidates in the media didn't help, but I think it was more a function of, first of all, Iowans not wanting to be told who the frontrunner was by the media and others, and second, the Gephardt attack, and then the mistake we made by responding to it.

Are politicians free to chart out an independent course on another issue: Israeli-Palestinian politics? You said the United States should play "a neutral role" and then all the other candidates dumped on you for that.

Politicians are basically free to do what they want. Politicians who believe they have to craft every position in order to win will lose. Our campaign was not about crafting positions in order to win. Interestingly enough, I agree with the Israeli assassination policy because I believe Hamas is a terrorist organization, but I strongly disagree with the Israeli policy on keeping large chunks of the West Bank. That's not going to lead to peace. And I don't mind saying that. I would have said so if I was still a candidate. The fact is, Israel has a right to defend itself, first, and secondly, in the long run if you want peace, the Palestinians have to feel that they've been fairly dealt with. And I think that taking large chunks of the West Bank is not going to resolve the problem.

You disagree with Kerry on that?

I do, I do.

I'm certainly not going to spend my time criticizing John Kerry. I'm trying to get John Kerry elected. He would be a far better President than George Bush, so whatever differences we may have are very small compared to the differences I have with George Bush. And I plan to vigorously support Kerry.

But Kerry doesn't excite a lot of people at the progressive grassroots. Why are you advising activists to vote for him instead of considering Ralph Nader or whomever the Green Party puts up?

Because the stakes are too big. For those of us who believe in health care for every American, it's very clear that John Kerry is going to bring us closer to that than George Bush is. For those of us who believe in supporting the environment, Kerry's record is far better than George Bush's on the environment. Sometimes from the point of view of the activist, the perfect becomes the enemy of the good, and I think there would be a huge price to be paid by America's working people and by small children and by minorities if George Bush is reelected for a second term. The only person who can be President other than George Bush is John Kerry, so it makes no sense to vote for Ralph Nader. This is one election where a vote for Ralph Nader is essentially a vote for George Bush.

But don't you think people have the right to vote for whomever they want?

People absolutely have the right. I've played no part in trying to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot. Nor will I. I think that would be a big mistake. But I do plan on playing a vigorous part to convince these people to vote for John Kerry.

How scary is the prospect of another four years of George Bush?

It's devastating for the country: a half-trillion dollar deficit for every single year, God knows what additional military adventures are being planned that we're not being told about, the worst environmental President since the League of Conservation Voters has been evaluating them, half a million children have lost their health care. The legacy of George Bush will be far worse than any President in my lifetime, and we can't afford another four years of this.

People often ask me, "Will Bush give up power if he loses?" Do you have any fear that he would not go quietly?

My biggest fear is that the election will be stolen again as it was in Florida by the elimination of large numbers of the African American community from the voter rolls by a private company contracting with the state. The election was clearly not won by George Bush in Florida, and then the Supreme Court put politics above loyalty to the country. So that's my greatest fear: not that George Bush won't go quietly according to the law, but that before the law gets enforced there will be a great deal of fiddling with it.

What can be done to stop that?

I've spoken to John Kerry about that, and he's going to have some legal teams in Florida. And I think we clearly have to deal with the voting machine issue: The Diebold voting machines have been undermined by their own chairman, who said he was going to do everything he could to get George Bush reelected. We've got to have legal advice, and we've got to have technical advice to make sure that those voting machines, which cannot be recounted, are used properly.

What is the goal of Democracy for America?

My goal is to elect as many grassroots candidates around the country as possible. We have over 400 people running for office: school board, county commissioner, mayor, state legislator. And I want to support them. Obviously, I want to support Democrats, particularly progressive Democrats who supported us. And if we can, to take back the House and Senate, which we're not that far from doing.

What do you see yourself doing? Are you interested in joining the Kerry Administration if offered?

Well, you know, that's up to John Kerry, not up to me. I'm interested in getting John Kerry elected President. And then I'm interested in doing whatever I can to see that Democrats retain Democratic values. And the thing I'm most interested in is health insurance for everybody. We're the only country in the industrialized world that doesn't have that, and we need that.

How do we get it?

It's not hard. Interestingly enough, Kerry's plan and my plan are very similar. What we did was based on what we did in Vermont. We really can get there. We don't have to take away people's choice of doctors, or any of those things that Harry and Louise talked about ten years ago. Certainly, Clinton's attempt to get universal health care didn't work. But this can be done within the context of what we have now. Then we can talk about changing it. We should get everybody in the system first, and then worry about changing it later. We've tried to do it in the reverse several times, and it's failed.

Looking back on the campaign, what did you learn?

I learned that the American people are pretty great people. And they are just poorly served by their leadership, and Washington's very much out of touch with the struggles of ordinary Americans. We're not done trying to change that. DemocracyforAmerica.com will be around a lot longer than November, one way or another. My hope is that we'll have a Democratic Administration, and then we'll hold their feet to the fire so they start performing for people who put them there.

Matthew Rothschild is Editor of The Progressive.

Protest At Your Own Risk

In many places across George Bush's America, you may be losing your ability to exercise your lawful First Amendment rights of speech and assembly. Increasingly, some police departments, the FBI, and the Secret Service are engaging in the criminalization -- or, at the very least, the marginalization -- of dissent.

"We have not seen such a crackdown on First Amendment activities since the Vietnam War," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

This crackdown took a violent turn in late November at the Miami protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas and at an anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland last April. In both cases, the police used astonishing force to break up protests. But even when the police do not engage in violence, they sometimes blatantly interfere with the right to dissent by preemptively arresting people on specious grounds.

Sarah Bantz is a member of the Missouri Resistance Against Genetic Engineering. Last May, she and several hundred others were gathering in St. Louis to protest against Monsanto and the World Agricultural Forum, which was meeting there.

On May 16, the first day of the protest weekend, Bantz and a small group of other activists went to the Regional Chamber and Growth Association to give their pitch on how biotech was hurting local farmers. After that meeting, she and her fellow activists piled into her van, but they were able to get only about a mile down the road when something unusual happened.

"All of a sudden there was one police car and then another, and I was pulled over," she recalls. "One officer came around and asked me to get out of the vehicle, which I did. The cop started to look through the van without permission. I had some Vitamin C pills sitting out, so they decided that was a drug and they were going to arrest me. They put me in cuffs and put me in the back of the car. They really had no grounds for arresting me, but I spent ten hours in jail." One reason they cited, along with the vitamins, was her failure to wear a seatbelt.

Bantz was scheduled to deliver three speeches at what organizers called their Biodevastation 7 Conference. "I gave none of them," she says. "For one, I was in jail, and for another I was talking to the police about why they detained me. And I was too frazzled to give the third. It was all unbelievable."

That same day, the Flying Rutabaga Bicycle Circus expected to take part in the protests. "We are a group of concerned bicyclists, puppeteers, musicians, farmhands, clowns, cheerleaders, activists, eaters of food, and drinkers of water," the circus says on its web page. "We are united in a quest to seek out food (that's our fuel) that is not tampered with by biotechnology companies. We ride for diversity, organic farming, and biojustice everywhere."

But they weren't allowed to ride in St. Louis.

"We set off on our bicycles for our first performance, a small skit, to let the protesters know about our Caravan Across the Corn Belt tour," says Erik Gillard, one of the Flying Rutabagas, who was riding with eight others. "We were following traffic rules when a big police paddy wagon pulled up with its light on. Gradually, more police officers arrived, and they told us we had to leave our bicycles. We were all arrested for operating our bicycles without a license."

There is no such offense in St. Louis, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri says. Afterward, Police Chief Joe Mokwa said the arresting officer was "overenthusiastic," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

After a while, the polce changed the charge to "impeding the flow of traffic on a bicycle," Gillard says. "It was written up for some intersection ten blocks from where we were all picked up." He says the police detained the group for six or seven hours. "All of our journals that contained phone directories or e-mail lists or information about where we were going to stay were taken and never returned," he says.

Also on the same day, the police raided the Bolozone, an activist group home where many of the cyclists were staying. Reminiscent of police raids in Washington, D.C., during the 2000 World Bank-IMF protests, this one succeeded in detaining people prior to the demonstration.

One of the residents of the Bolozone, Kelley Meister, a political activist and artist who identifies herself as an anarchist, was there the morning of that raid.

"I was out in the alley painting a sign," says Meister, "and one cop car drove up and then four more. Two officers came toward me, and I said, 'Hi, can I help you? I live here.'

"And they said, 'This building is condemned.' And they started to walk past me.

"I said, 'Do you have a warrant? I don't give you permission to enter my house.'

"The reply was, 'We don't need a warrant. This building is condemned.' " The St. Louis housing inspector, who came with the police, brought a condemnation notice with him, she says.

The owner of the building, Dan Green, had been working cooperatively with the city for months while rehabbing it, according to Denise Lieberman, legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. The timing of the raid makes it clear that the police used a "bogus housing inspection to conduct a criminal search without a warrant," she says.

"They arrested me and two of the cyclists, and charged us with occupying a condemned building," Meister says. "They put us in handcuffs, and placed us in a police van. I could see them carrying things out of the house, such as art from my room and bags of stuff. I was taken to the station and held for fifteen hours. Some of the others were held for twenty hours."

The police did not let Meister back in her home for five days. "When we finally got inside, we realized that they had ransacked the house from top to bottom," she says. The police also confiscated the bikes, puppets, props, posters, and banners of the Rutabaga Circus cyclists who had been staying at the Bolozone. When they got their bikes back after the weekend was over, many of their tires were slashed, Gillard says.

Meister says she's considering suing the police. And so is the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

Richard Wilkes, public relations officer for the St. Louis Police Department, says "the department really doesn't have a response" to the allegations about raiding the house or detaining protesters or cyclists. "None of those things had anything to do with preventing people from protesting," he says.

It's not every day that a sitting judge will allege he saw the police commit felonies. But that's what Judge Richard Margolius said on December 11 in regard to police misconduct in Miami during the protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) in late November.

Judge Margolius was presiding over a case that the protesters brought against the city. In court, he said he saw the police commit at least twenty felonies, Amy Driscoll of the Miami Herald reported. "Pretty disgraceful what I saw with my own eyes," he said, according to the paper. "This was a real eye-opener. A disgrace for the community."

Police used tasers, shock batons, rubber bullets, beanbags filled with chemicals, large sticks, and concussion grenades against lawful protesters. (Just prior to the FTAA protests, the city of Miami passed an ordinance requiring a permit for any gathering of more than six people for longer than twenty-nine minutes.) They took the offensive, wading into crowds and driving after the demonstrators. Police arrested more than 250 protesters. Almost all of them were simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Police also seized protest material and destroyed it, and they confiscated personal property, demonstrators say.

"How many police officers have been charged by the state attorney so far for what happened out there during the FTAA?" the judge asked in court, according to the Herald. The prosecutor said none. "Pretty sad commentary, at least from what I saw," the judge retorted.

Even for veterans of protests, the police actions in Miami were unlike any they had encountered before. "I've been to a number of the anti-globalization protests--Seattle, Cancun, D.C.--and this was different," says Norm Stockwell, operations coordinator for WORT, the community radio station in Madison, Wisconsin. "At previous events, the police force was defensive, with heavy armor hoping to hold back protests. In Miami, police were in light armor and were poised to go after the protesters, and that's what they did. They actually went into the crowds to divide the protesters, then chased them into different neighborhoods."

Stockwell says some reporters were mistreated, especially if they were not "embedded" with the Miami police.

"I got shot twice [with rubber projectiles], once in the back, another time in the leg," reported Jeremy Scahill of Democracy Now! "John Hamilton from the Workers Independent News Service was shot in the neck by a pepper-spray pellet." Ana Nogueira, Scahill's colleague from Democracy Now!, was videotaping some of the police mayhem when she was arrested, Scahill said. "In police custody, the authorities made Ana remove her clothes because they were pepper sprayed. The police forced her to strip naked in front of male officers."

John Heckenlively, former head of the Racine County Democratic Party in Wisconsin, says he was cornered by the police late in the afternoon of November 20. Heckenlively and a few companions were trying to move away from the protest area when "a large cordon of police, filling the entire block edge to edge, was moving up the street," he says. "As they approached, an officer told us that we should leave the area. We informed him that was precisely what we were attempting to do, and seconds later, he placed us under arrest."

Police kept Heckenlively in tight handcuffs behind his back for more than six hours, he says, adding that he was held for a total of sixty hours.

Trade unionists were particularly outraged at the treatment they received in Miami. John Sweeney, head of the AFL-CIO, wrote Attorney General John Ashcroft on December 3 to urge the Justice Department to investigate "the massive and unwarranted repression of constitutional rights and civil liberties that took place in Miami."

Sweeney wrote that on November 20, police interfered with the federation's demonstration "by denying access to buses, blocking access to the amphitheater where the rally was occurring, and deploying armored personnel carriers, water cannons, and scores of police in riot gear with clubs in front of the amphitheater entrance. Some union retirees had their buses turned away from Miami altogether by the police, and were sent back home."

Blocking access to the rally was the least of it. After the march, "police advanced on groups of peaceful protesters without provocation," Sweeney wrote. "The police failed to provide those in the crowd with a safe route to disperse, and then deployed pepper spray and rubber bullets against protesters as they tried to leave the scene. Along with the other peaceful protesters, AFL-CIO staff, union peacekeepers, and retirees were trapped in the police advance. One retiree sitting on a chair was sprayed directly in the face with pepper spray. An AFL-CIO staff member was hit by a rubber bullet while trying to leave the scene. When the wife of a retired Steelworker verbally protested police tactics, she was thrown to the ground on her face and a gun was pointed to her head."

The ACLU of Greater Miami is planning on filing several suits against the Miami Police Department, says Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, president of the group. "This was a clear abuse of power by the police, and an indiscriminate use of force," she says. "People who were retreating were being shot in the back with rubber bullets. One photojournalist, Carl Kesser, was filming the police, and he was hit in the head with a beanbag above his eye socket. If it had hit him a little bit lower, he could have lost his eye. The police were using tasers on people who were down, who were already restrained. These police officers were using these weapons as if they were Pez dispensers. They acted like as long as it wasn't a firearm, they could use the weapons to their hearts' content."

"We did what we had to do based on the situation at the time," says Miami Police Officer Herminia Salas-Jacobson. "If anyone has any concerns or questions, we've asked them to come forward, and we will address each one on an individual basis."

The police used $8.5 million of the $87 billion Congress appropriated for the Iraq War to patrol the streets of Miami. Police Chief John Timoney thanked his officers for their "remarkable restraint." And he won praise in some law enforcement quarters for what is being called the Miami Model.

By the way, Timoney was the police commissioner in Philadelphia during the 2000 Republican Convention, and his tactics then raised questions about the violation of protesters' civil liberties. Nonetheless, Timoney has consulted with the Democratic National Committee on security issues for the Democratic Convention in Boston this summer.

Seven months before the FTAA in Miami, police used brutal force on the West Coast. At the Port of Oakland on the morning of April 7, more than 500 anti-war demonstrators gathered to protest against two shipping companies that were involved in George Bush's Iraq War.

The police responded by firing rubber bullets, wooden pellets, and tear gas into the crowd. Nine members of Local 10 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union were injured, as were at least thirty-one demonstrators. These forty individuals have filed a class action lawsuit against the city of Oakland and several Oakland police officers.

"I was hit on the back of the right calf as I attempted to run away from the police fire," wrote Willow Rosenthal, one of the plaintiffs, in her statement. "The entire back of my calf was blood red and swollen with a circular mark of broken skin about three quarters of an inch across in the center. The calf was numb about three inches around the point of impact, and I wasn't able to walk without assistance."

Another plaintiff, Scott Fleming, was "shot five times in the back, shoulder, and under his arms with wooden dowels fired directly at him as he fled," the suit says. The police also allegedly attacked at least two legal observers and two people videotaping the event.

"This was the most outrageous incident of unprovoked mass police violence the National Lawyers Guild has seen in our twenty years of providing legal support to Bay Area demonstrations," said National Lawyers Guild attorney Rachel Lederman, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, in a press release.

This case hopes "to reestablish the constitutional principle that the police cannot choose to impose the price of serious physical injury on persons engaging in nonviolent protest activities," said Alan Schlosser, legal director of the ACLU of Northern California, which is part of the case, as well.

"Overall, it was peaceful, but a small element began throwing things at the officers, and that's when the command officers decided to deploy less lethal munitions," says Officer Danielle Ashford of the Oakland Police Department. "Our chief has launched an internal review and has reassessed our crowd control policy to minimize injuries to all involved parties."

What happened in St. Louis, Miami, and Oakland "comes on the heels of more than two years of federal actions and policies that are antagonistic to free speech," says the ACLU's Romero.

One of these was Attorney General John Ashcroft's May 30, 2002, lifting of the Justice Department's strict guidelines curtailing domestic spying. Those guidelines dated back to the Ford Administration, but now the FBI is free once again to spy on protesters and to infiltrate their meetings in public places. This has raised fears of a return to the days of COINTELPRO, the FBI's counterintelligence program that spied on Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and infiltrated the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement.

One of the most disturbing developments, says Romero, is "the easy conflation of dissenters with criminal suspects or even potential terrorists." He points to the FBI Intelligence Bulletin of October 15, 2003. This bulletin, which The New York Times exposed, refers to "extremist elements" who engage in "aggressive tactics." But it doesn't limit its attention to lawbreakers. "Even the more peaceful techniques can create a climate of disorder, block access to a site, draw large numbers of police officers to a specific location in order to weaken security at other locations, obstruct traffic, and possibly intimidate people from attending the events being protested," it says. And it does not distinguish between "extremists" and "activists." It says that "activists often communicate with one another using cell phones"--a dazzling insight. They also may use recording equipment "for documenting potential cases of police brutality and for distribution of information over the Internet," it says.

Using cell phones or filming police brutality or disseminating information over the Internet can hardly be construed as illegal activity. But the FBI memo says, "Law enforcement agencies should be alert to these possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force."

Equating protesters with terrorists is not confined to FBI headquarters. Mike Van Winkle, spokesman for the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, told the Oakland Tribune last year: "You can make an easy kind of link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that protest. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

On February 8, 2002, Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting Evansville, Indiana, to campaign for Representative John Hostettler at the local civic center.

Environmentalist John Blair was walking on a public sidewalk nearby and was carrying a sign that read: "Cheney: 19th C. Energy Man."

Police ordered him to move to a "protest zone" more than a block away, and Blair refused, so they arrested him.

"I was arrested for nothing more than exercising my rights as a citizen in what I thought was a free country," Blair wrote in an article for Counterpunch, which broke the story.

Blair was at first charged with disorderly conduct. Then the prosecutor increased the charge to a Class A misdemeanor of resisting law enforcement, which could have cost him a year in jail.

But the case against Blair was quickly dropped. "I didn't think the evidence established a case that would be successful in court," says Stan Levco, prosecuting attorney for Vanderburgh County, Indiana. But he adds: "I don't think they were wrong to arrest him under the circumstances. They thought it was a safety issue, and I wouldn't second-guess them."

Blair is suing for $50,000 in damages. "They shouldn't even have approached me in the first place," he says. "Carrying a sign isn't an illegal act in America. At least it wasn't before Bush-Cheney."

Blair's experience was hardly unique. Local police, on orders of the Secret Service, have literally been marginalizing critics of the President or Vice President into so-called protest zones far out of earshot and eyesight, the ACLU says.

On September 23, 2003, the ACLU sued the Secret Service for engaging in a "pattern and practice" of discriminating against those who disagree with government policies.

On September 2, 2002, in Neville Island, Pennsylvania, "protesters were sent to a 'designated free speech zone' located on a large baseball field one-third of a mile away from where President Bush was speaking," an ACLU fact sheet notes. "Only people carrying signs critical of the President were required to enter and remain. Many people carrying signs supporting the President and his policies were allowed to stand alongside the motorcade route. . . . When retired Steelworker Bill Neel refused to enter the protest zone and insisted on being allowed to stand where the President's supporters were standing, he was arrested for disorderly conduct and detained until the President had departed."

Similarly, when President Bush came to St. Louis on January 22, 2003, to tout his economic plan, one woman with a "We Love You President Bush" sign was allowed to stand near the building where the President was speaking. But Andrew Wimmer, who was standing next to her, was arrested for holding a sign saying "Instead of war invest in people."

Ann Roman, spokeswoman for the Secret Service, says, "We don't comment on pending litigation, but we don't make any distinction on the basis of purpose, message, or intent of any particular group or individual."

Eleanor Eisenberg is the executive director of the Arizona ACLU, but that did not stop police from arresting her on September 27, 2002. That day, Bush came to the Civic Center in Phoenix to raise money for two Republican candidates. A crowd of 1,500 protesters gathered across the street. But all of a sudden and for no discernible reason, the police, both on horseback and on foot, charged into the crowd, says Eisenberg.

"Shortly after the police started their charge, I saw them dragging a young man into the street and grinding his face into the pavement and being very abusive," she says. When Eisenberg, in her official capacity, went over to see what was going on, "a police officer whacked me with his horse's flank and sent me flying. And the next thing I know, I was being arrested."

Randy Force of the Phoenix Police Department says, "We stand by the facts in the police report on this case." That report states that the Secret Service ordered the area cleared and that police told Eisenberg "she was standing in a restricted area." It claims "she started taking photographs of other citizens being involved in disorderly conduct." After giving Eisenberg three orders to move, one police officer gave her "a small shove with his horse to move her," the report states.

"When you connect the dots--the FBI bulletin treating protesters as terrorists, the pattern and practice of the Secret Service of corralling protesters in zones far away, the actions in Miami and San Francisco and elsewhere--you see an increasingly hostile environment for groups that are expressing views that are divergent from the Bush Administration's," says ACLU Executive Director Romero. "Clearly, the government has put in place key policies and practices that try to shut down those that disagree with it."

Lieberman of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri puts it this way: "Law enforcement officers are telling people, if you have dissenting views you should think twice about expressing them. And if you don't agree to be invisible, you're going to be liable for criminal prosecution under whatever guise we can think of."

Looking back on her experience with the police in St. Louis at the World Agricultural Forum, Sarah Bantz strikes a philosophical note. "I guess I learned my lesson," she says.

And what is that lesson? "That these issues I keep hearing about -- of the increased use of police and military force in this country -- are real. They're not happening in the future; they're happening today."

Matthew Rothschild is Editor of The Progressive.

Protest in the Poconos

Fred D'Amato lives in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, and he thought he had the right of free speech there.

So he put up a sign on his front lawn in early September that read: "Support Our Troops, Impeach Bush Admin." It's personal for D'Amato. His son, Chris, was supposed to graduate from Penn State this year, "but now we don't know when he'll graduate." Chris is in the reserves, and he's serving in Iraq right now. Morale "is not very good at all," his father says, on the basis of Chris's e-mails home.

What got Fred D'Amato boiling mad was when President Bush extended the term of duty for reservists in Iraq from one year to as much as eighteen months. "We tried calling up different politicians, but we got no answer from them, so I put up the sign," says D'Amato. He displayed the sign, two-feet wide by four-feet high, in front of a large American flag.

According to the Pocono Record, one local resident of this city of 3,000 complained to Borough Councilman Francis O'Boyle, who instructed the zoning officer to look into the matter. "The last couple of words is what's the problem," O'Boyle told the Pocono Record. "I don't think it's right to put a sign up like that and say those things. But it's up to the zoning officer." Reached by The Progressive, O'Boyle said: "I'm not making any comments."

Joseph W. Brady, zoning officer for the Mount Pocono Borough, wrote a letter to Mr. and Mrs. D'Amato, dated September 22, telling them that the sign was "illegal." Wrote Brady: "This sign must be removed immediately upon receipt of this letter, otherwise the Borough will be seeking Enforcement Remedies. . . . These penalties call for fines of up to $500 a day plus all court costs, including reasonable attorney fees. We ask your cooperation in removing this sign. If you wish to display a sign on your property, the necessary permits must be obtained. Of course this sign must meet all Borough Ordinances."

As soon as he opened the letter, D'Amato called his wife at work. "She said to take it down immediately because we can't afford the $500 fine," he recalls. "I took it down for one day."

He did not like the feeling of being gagged. "I felt angry and frustrated," he said. "It was definitely eliminating my free speech."

Two neighbors he walks the dogs with in the mornings convinced him to put the sign back up. "It's up right now, and there's no way it's coming down," he says. He also found three lawyers to work pro-bono on his case and to put pressure on the city.

The Mount Pocono Borough has backed off, in part because of the bad publicity the story has generated. The Pocono Record wrote two critical editorials and a scathing column about the censorship, and AP picked up the original story.

At a public meeting on October 6, Mount Pocono's lawyer, James Fareri, announced that the borough would suspend enforcement of the ordinance. "I said I would announce at the next meeting what my recommendation will be," he told The Progressive. "And my recommendation will be that this is a permissible sign subject to reasonable regulations as to the size and the placement and possibly the duration. At the end of the day, this guy is going to be allowed to have his sign."

Fareri said that Mount Pocono had taken a model ordinance (developed by the Pocono Mountains Chamber of Commerce, according to the Pocono Record), but that ordinance did not explicitly address signs of this type. "The zoning officer, who is not a constitutional scholar, was just trying to do his job," Fareri says.

John Finnerty, borough council president, agrees that D'Amato "should be able to have that sign up. It's just a matter of determining what's allowed in our ordinance. All signs need a permit. For aesthetic reasons," he says.

D'Amato has applied for a permit, though it galls him to have to do so. "You shouldn't need a permit to do something that's granted to you by the Constitution," D'Amato says.

D'Amato, a Vietnam vet, has no prior experience in protests. "This is all new to me," he says. But the controversy in Mount Pocono seems to have lit a fire under him. He's expecting to attend the anti-war rally on October 25 in Washington, D.C. "This will be my first big protest," he says. "Tell the President we don't want this war. Bring our troops home. If it goes on, it'll be like Vietnam again."

As for his own story, D'Amato provides the moral: "You can fight city hall and win. And the First Amendment: You can't beat that."

Midnight Raid

Tom Treece gives a course called "Public Issues" at Spaulding High School in Barre, Vermont. Right now, he's embroiled in a public issue himself, after a local police officer entered his classroom under peculiar circumstances on April 9 to take photographs of student artwork.

The uniformed police officer, John Mott, went into the class at 1:30 in the morning. He told the Times Argus, which broke the story on May 5, that "he entered the school through an unlocked maintenance door." The school superintendent, Dorothy Anderson, says he banged on the front door of the school and got the custodian to let him in.

In any event, he convinced the custodian to unlock the door to Treece's classroom, and he took a picture of a student project that showed President Bush with duct tape over his mouth, and the words: "Put your duct tape to good use. Shut your mouth."

Treece told me this project was part of an assignment for a unit he was teaching on Iraq. It had three parts. The first part was to participate in a debate on whether to invade Iraq. The second was to write a paper defending your perspective on the issue. And the third was to make a poster illustrating your point of view. Six of his students put together the offending poster.

Mott, who did not return several calls from me, told the Times Argus, "I wanted everybody else to see what was in that room." The paper said the students' project "offended him as an American and a retired military man." He told the paper, "Having spent 30 years in uniform, I was insulted. I'm just taking a stand on what happens in that classroom as a resident and a voter and a taxpayer in the community."

Mott, incidentally, used to work at Spaulding High as the JROTC officer.

Superintendent Anderson was not happy that Mott entered the school during off-hours to further his own political agenda.

"I find this behavior, at the very least, in violation of our policy for visitors at the school," she wrote Police Chief Michael Stevens on April 16. "I also find it disturbing that a police officer would wear his uniform under such circumstances, thereby intimidating our employee into letting him in the building at a very unusual hour. I question the intent of his visit. Why could he not have come during regular school hours? Please look into this matter and determine if any ethical or legal guidelines were breached."

According to Anderson, the police chief told her "he was going to handle it administratively." Chief Stevens did not return several phone calls from The Progressive.

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh called Mott a hero and posted the students' artwork on the Limbaugh web page.

Anderson is not happy about that. "These kids didn't turn these projects in with any understanding that they would end up on Rush Limbaugh," she said. "Their parents feel very violated and angry."

According to the Times Argus, Mott at least initially "refused orders from Barre Town Police Chief Michael Stevens and Town Manager Carl Rogers to supply school officials with copies of the photographs."

Anderson says she does not want the police department to pursue charges against Mott.

"There's a huge bonfire here already burning," she says. "I don't want to throw gasoline on it."

The student artwork is just part of the bonfire.

Treece got heat for something he himself posted about the Iraq War, and both controversies have become embroiled in the local school budget that is up for a vote.

"After 9/11 we put up this dialogue board, where teachers and students are allowed to put up their written opinions on various issues," explains Anderson.

The postings had to be signed and dated, and could not be vulgar, Anderson says.

Treece used the board, as did other teachers, as well as students, some of whom wrote, "Love it or leave it," he says. "In March, a couple of teachers had up a picture of George Bush, with a question, 'Are we headed for tyranny?' Another question was, 'Should we impeach him?' The following day, one teacher posted a set of impeachment articles that had been circulating on the web, and I posted another," Treece recalls. "Two days after that, I posted a little notecard-sized paper that said, 'All hail the idiot boy king,' That started the whole fury."

Two residents, Paul and Norma Malone, who have founded a group called Citizens Advocating Responsible Education, wrote a letter to the Times Argus that was published on March 28.

"It is unrealistic to expect that current world events would not be a topic of discussion among students or faculty," they wrote. "But it is quite another matter for a teacher to use taxpayer dollars (his salary, the school facility, and related resources) to proselytize his leftwing political rhetoric and anti-establishment rhetoric. Of particular concern is the lack of respect shown in this reference to the President of the United States as 'the idiot boy king.' We would advise the board and the administration to examine Mr. Treece's teaching practices and course materials. We would encourage parents and members of the community to acquaint themselves with these current activities of concern at SHS."

Anderson says she asked Treece to take the "idiot boy king" note down. "It was in bad taste, it was strongly worded, and it may discourage his students from offering an opposite viewpoint," she says. Treece complied.

That did not mollify some local residents.

At a school board meeting on April 7, "about three dozen residents" came "to confront the school board about a bulletin board they say has been abused by faculty promoting an anti-American agenda," the Times Argus reported. They also objected to bumper stickers Treece had on his door that said, "Impeach Bush," and, "Vermonters for a Bush/Cheney Regime Change."

Treece says that some of these residents have been calling for his head. "Fire Treece, and we'll pass the budget" is a comment he says people have made.

(The citizens of Barre must pass a school budget every year. The first budget failed to pass in March. The next vote is May 13.)

Treece says a flier was circulating in town with his yearbook picture on it, along with a copy of his "Impeach Bush" sticker, and the words, "We cannot allow this kind of stuff to happen in our schools. Overturn the budget on May 13."

Anderson defends Treece's teaching practices. "In the course of his teaching, he does present both sides and gives resources on both sides," she says.

But she is pursuing administrative action against him.

"I can't teach that class anymore," Treece says. After this year, "they've removed me from the class." According to Treece, the administration told him, "We feel that Treece is a lightning rod, and his teaching that course would be a disruption to the orderly educational process we'd like to see restored at Spaulding."

Treece is "very upset" about losing this class. "This is purely a political move on their part," he says.

The controversy has taken a toll on him.

"My reputation has been spoiled," he says. "I haven't got a lot of rest in the last month."

Matthew Rothschild is editor-in-chief of the Progressive.

Anti-Bush Protesters Silenced at Ohio State Graduation

George W. Bush came to Columbus on June 14 for Ohio State's commencement, and university administrators made sure he wouldn't hear any criticism.

At rehearsal and right as the ceremony began, a school administrator, Richard Hollingsworth, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs, warned that any protesters would be kicked out and arrested. Some students said they were told they would be denied their diplomas if they protested.

(The story of the suppression of the OSU protest was broken in the left media by portside@yahoogroups.com and by FAIR.)

The university was responding to a planned silent protest by a group calling itself Turn Your Back on Bush.

Hillary Tinapple, a graduating senior, was one of the organizers of the group.

"I was quite upset ever since I read in the campus paper that Bush had been invited to speak at my graduation," she wrote on the group's web site (turnyourbackonbush.com). "That man signifies everything that is wrong in this nation: the abuse of power, the privatization of profit and the socialization of burdens, the destruction and dismantling of what I call progress without any consideration of the consequences, but most especially the Bush Administration's foreign policy and actions around the 9-11 issues. I am a member of the Green Party, and a passionate community activist, so of course my gut response was that something HAD to be done to show we do not approve."

She called an emergency meeting, and she "was excited about seeing new faces in the group," she wrote.

"About forty folks came to the first planning/brainstorming meeting, and about thirty came to the next one," she told The Progressive.

They decided to turn their backs when the President spoke.

But the threat from the administration "changed the whole feeling of the protest," she wrote, and scared off many students.

She told The Progressive that Hollingsworth warned them "he knew about the web site, and that if you do not cooperate, you could be arrested, and if you are arrested, then you would not graduate."

Hollingsworth did not return The Progressive's phone call for comment.

But Randy Dunham, an assistant director of media relations at Ohio State, says the threat to withhold diplomas from protesters was "an urban myth. Somebody took a statement out of context completely. What was said at commencement was anyone who attempts to block the hearing or view of others would be removed from the stadium and subject to arrest."

I asked Dunham why a silent protest would warrant an arrest. "If they blocked the view of others" it would be justified, he says.

Tinapple says "four graduates and about ten others" participated in the protest. "At that point , it became more about my freedom of expression as an individual than any single issue about the Bush Administration," she wrote on her web site.

But Dunham says, "This should not have been a political event. The President's speech wasn't about politics. It was about voluntarism."

For the record, the President, who happens to be a political figure, did talk about subjects other than voluntarism.

"We are called to defend liberty against tyranny and terror," Bush said. "We've answered that call. We will bring security to our people and justice to our enemies ... Our nation is the greatest force for good in history."

"Eight people turned their backs, and none were arrested," says Dunham. "That leaves 59,992 who seemed pretty pleased."

While none of the protesters were formally arrested, the police reportedly did eject at least one of them from the ceremony and threatened him with arrest. Jeff, who is identified as an OSU alumnus on the group's web site, wrote: "I saw one of Columbus's Finest heading our way ... We were being led out of Ohio Stadium. To the officer's credit, he realized there was a three-year-old in my arms and was not at all hostile. I asked him if I was under arrest, and he did not answer me. When we reached the exit ... he told me we were being charged with disturbing the peace. If we chose to leave, the charges would be dropped immediately. With our daughter in mind, we chose not to fight it ... On this day, June 14th, 2002, I came to the realization that we no longer live in a free society."

Yoshie Furuhashi, a lecturer in the English at Ohio State, was also one of the organizers of the protest. Her conclusion: "The police and the OSU administration didn't respect our rights to free speech and free assembly at all," she wrote on the group's web site.

Furuhashi told The Progressive that some of the protesters are in touch with the Ohio Civil Liberties Union to see what legal recourse they might have.

"There was no need for them to clamp down on free speech," says Joseph Levine, a philosophy professor at Ohio State who joined several dozen protesters outside the ceremony that day. "They knew pretty well what was planned. There was nothing especially disruptive about that. This was an attempt to really put a chill on protest activity."

Matt Rothschild is the editor-in-chief of The Progressive.

BRAND NEW STORIES