April 09, 2005

Kafka's America: The War on Terrorism Comes Home

Alberto Gonzales went to Capital Hill this week to defend the Patriot Act saying that it was an invaluable tool for protecting Americans from not only terrorism, but other crimes too. He told the senators that the government was to be trusted and had not abused the power given it under the law. And as the Christian Science Monitor said there isn't much sign of abuse:

But few cases of actual abuse of the law have surfaced. No one, for example, has come forward to claim the compensation provided in the law for abuse of civil rights. One reason, critics say, is that the most invasive powers of the Patriot Act are exercised secretly, some accompanied with gag orders.

Of course, it depends on what you might think of abuse of power and the rights of people caught up in the maw of the police state authorized by the Patriot Act. This week a story surfaced that the government was holding two teenage girls as possible terrorists. According to the government the two girls are potential suicide bombers so they must be held under the stringent rules the Patriot Act allows. Both girls are being held at the Pennsylvannia immigration center and the charges against them are secret.

One girl, the daughter of a Bangladeshi man, was "discovered" by the government when her father called the police worried when his daughter stayed out all night. Later FBI came to the home, interviewed her and then took her away 20 days later. The other girl was seen giving the first girl a traditional Muslim greeting at the Federal Court and therefore, according the the police, must be an accomplice of the other. According to the New York Times:

There are no firm time limits on immigration detention, so the burden is on the girls to prove that they are not potential suicide bombers, rather than on the government to prove they are.

They are denied the right to see the evidence against them:

"The F.B.I. has an important and substantial interest in safeguarding the information," Mr. Bubier's motion stated, "to protect national security law and enforcement interests." To release it, he said, "places investigative strategies and methods at substantial risk."

The girls have no right to a court-appointed lawyer, and according to the government document that described the Guinean girl, her family had not retained one.

The Bangladeshi girl's father, who sells cheap watches wholesale and, he said, earns less than $16,000 a year, hired a New York immigration lawyer for $2,500. But the lawyer declined to attend her first hearing, according to a motion he filed seeking to handle the matter "telephonically," because of "time constraints."

These girls and their families are trapped in a nightmare that truly can be called Kafka-esque. They do not know what the charges are against them, when, if ever, they will be freed from detention, and their families are held in this legal limbo as well.

Can someone tell me why we have to be so paranoid that we cannot find another way to deal with 16 year old girls? Are we truly that afraid of terrorism that we have to lock them up without any legal recourse? This Patriot Act is an obscenity on our legal system and a betrayal to our constitution. If we are to ever get back to being a humane and sane society, we must take back the awesome power that was ceded to the government under the Patriot Act.

Posted by Mary at April 9, 2005 11:41 AM | War on Terrorism | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

Dude! I came across your blog from slacktivist's and I shall have to come back and keep track of where you are going.

Of course as long as it is "illegal" under the Patriot Act to present any sort of 'anti-americanism' about actions taken under the Patriot Act, then only those backing Iraqi Flying Saucer Technology will oppose continuing the Patriot Act.

And yeah - why would anyone want to talk about the 3rd largest industrial accident in Alaska that just happens to a North Slope Oil Field OOPSIE. I mean, wasn't the Patriot Act suppose to protect us from the sort of anti-american propoganda that would be of aid and comfort to the enemy in a 'time of whatever' as that sort of activity must clearly be!!!! Clearly no better proof can be presented that the Patriot Act must be expanded to track down the sort of enemies of the state who would say anything bad about anything!!!

I mean, don't those people know that they could single handedly cause those Iraqi Flying Saucer's to return like they did on 09/11/2001 when they used their laser death rays to destroy america....

but hey, things could be worse, americans could be simply indifferent to everything.

Posted by: drieux just drieux at April 9, 2005 04:40 PM

Thanks, Mary. That's got to be one of the creepiest examples of overreach we've seen yet. Not the creepiest, mind, but up near the top of the list there.

At least if Miranda rights come up for SCOTUS review, there will be a blatant example right there of why they continue to be important. Those families must be terrified.

Posted by: natasha at April 9, 2005 06:55 PM

Thank you so much for posting on this. I just have one slight correction--most of the deportations and detentions that have happened in the past three or four years in response to the attacks on the WTC, Pentagon, etc. are based on 1996 immigartion law, not the PATRIOT Act. Check out http://www.familiesforfreedom.org for a deeper analysis of what's going on with immigration.

Posted by: Saurav Sarkar at April 10, 2005 07:35 PM

Thank you for your correction, Saurav. I know that the immigration laws are a part of this. I've been pretty horrified with how our immigration laws are being used these days.

Posted by: Mary at April 11, 2005 06:08 AM