NEW DAWN Magazine - Real total war has become information war, it is being fought now...
 

  A Journal of Alternative News & Information   •   For a New Consciousness, a New Humanity, a New Era!
 


 
 

STRIKE AGAINST CIVIL LIBERTIES

Terrorism and the War on Freedom

 
 

By New Dawn Research Team

Those in authority should take appropriate precautions to protect our citizens. But we will not allow this enemy to win the war by changing our way of life or restricting our freedoms.
– US President George W. Bush

The first war of the 21st century, the War on Terror, is now being waged. It is to be a lengthy and protracted war, fought by the US and its allies on home soil and in far-flung corners of the globe. The goal is to route out terrorists, in all their guises and wipe them from the face of the Earth. President Bush’s declaration, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” provides a generalisation enabling governments to deal harshly with a broad range of terrorists, insurgents and riff raff.

The terrorist threat has been dramatically oversimplified. By keeping it simple and stupid – as the saying goes – governments have been able to strike a chord with the masses who are amenable to slogans and propaganda. It’s easy to grasp the ‘us-against-them’ mentality, the ‘smoke ‘em out of their lairs kind of stuff. Just keep repeating it. Things haven’t really changed since Hitler’s day.

As in any war effort, governments get everyone involved in order to reap the maximum benefits. First, the ‘war on terror’ will revive the deteriorating world economy and help the corporations, particularly the arms manufacturers and the IT sector. Second, it will provide jobs and encourage spending – this ensures people don’t have too much time on their hands to think about the emerging totalitarian state. The logic is simple: it’s better to have a passive consumer than an active intellectual. Third, the ‘war on terror’ will provide so-called democratic governments with the necessary laws to deal with the rising throng of outspoken activists and civil rights campaigners who are making trouble for governments and their corporate partners.

The media – the fourth estate – has an important role in the new war. The televised images from the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon looked like a Hollywood production. The much-hyped anthrax scares have continued to provoke fear and alarm among the public. Graphic imagery of the military conquest in Afghanistan ignites patriotism and reinforces the authority of the US at home and abroad.

Millions have been intellectually and morally paralysed by the ‘war on terror’. Sales of the US flag are up. People believe more of what the establishment says. Millions are sitting slack jawed watching the tube relay graphic images of terrorism, unable to distinguish fiction from reality.

The terrorist attacks provide a remarkable opportunity to advance the New World Order. 11 September marked the end of an era, the end of freedom. Most citizens never took their freedom seriously anyway. They just assumed that it would always be there, like the sun always shines. They never realised that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. They were too busy keeping up with the Joneses, paying off their debts and attending sporting events. One hundred thousand people will pack like sardines into a sports stadium, but it’s tough to get even one hundred people to a political meeting. That’s how effective the tactics are. The need to keep checks and balances on the government and the military industrial complex has been left to a few fringe groups, radical academics and under-resourced organisations that couldn’t possibly win the battle for freedom in the end.

To quell any real concerns about diminishing civil rights, governments just keep repeating the mantra about Operation Enduring Freedom, a stable, therapeutic and permanent sort of freedom which can be defined, controlled and manipulated. As part of this Operation, democratic countries are legislating so that the dragnets of police and intelligence agencies are cast as widely as possible, capturing the ‘evil doers’ now and in the future. While passions about terrorism are running high, laws can be changed in the blink of an eye. Governments everywhere are implementing excessive reforms as an overreaction to 11 September. Legislators are so swept away with the ‘war on terror’ that they think anything to do with counter-terrorism will provide greater security for their country. Domestic security has become a primary concern. It’s open slather for the zealous advocates of internal security. The recent federal election in Australia is a case in point. The Liberal party had everyone so wound up with illegal boat people and terrorism that voters forgot all about the GST, job losses and globalisation.

The ‘war on terror’, like the war on drugs, will continue indefinitely. Even if the threat of terrorism passes, the reforms mean that civil liberties will continue to erode. It goes without saying that few people want to be perceived as being terrorist sympathisers. It’s a catch 22. It’s a zero tolerance policy on disagreement, dissent and disloyalty. The legislative changes being made are permanent. They establish ominous legal precedents, and arm the law enforcement agencies with vast arbitrary powers to label various acts as “terrorism.”

So far, significant advances towards police state measures have been made in the USA, Australia, the UK and Canada. It’s been a strike against civil liberties.

USA PATRIOT ACT

The USA Patriot Act was signed into law on 26 October, 2001. This Act gives the long arm of the state a terrific kick along. The terrorist threat and the urgency of the situation meant that Congress didn’t even test and weigh the Act. The legislation was passed without indepth deliberation and debate. Most didn’t even read the legislation; a few staffers took a peek. A handful opposed the legislation, like Representative Ron Paul of Texas, one of three Republicans to vote against it. Paul even confirmed that the final version of the bill was not printed before the vote.

If Congress had had the chance to properly analyse USA Patriot, representatives would have woken up to the fact that it didn’t strike the right balance between empowering law enforcement and protecting constitutional freedoms. But at 300 pages, more than half a ream of A4 paper, the legislation was daunting. With the World Trade Centre still smouldering, it was easy to convince Congress that the home front was a warfront and police needed new powers. A lot of representatives just voted for the name – the Uniting and Strengthening America By Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (H.R. 3162, the “USA Patriot Act”). How many members of Congress want to be seen as un-American by voting against something called USA Patriot?

Some of the main provisions of USA Patriot are:

• Police can sneak into someone’s house or office, search the contents, and leave without ever telling the owner. This would be supervised by a court, and the notification of the surreptitious search “may be delayed” indefinitely (Section 213).

• Any US attorney or state attorney general can order the installation of the FBI’s Carnivore surveillance system and record addresses of Web pages visited and e-mail correspondents – without going to a judge. Previously, there were stiffer legal restrictions on Carnivore and other Internet surveillance techniques (Section 216).

• Any American “with intent to defraud” that scans in an image of a foreign currency note or e-mails or transmits such an image will go to jail for up to 20 years (Section 375).

• An accused terrorist who is a foreign citizen and who cannot be deported can be held for an unspecified series of “periods of up to six months” with the attorney general’s approval (Section 412).

• Biometric technology, such as fingerprint readers or iris scanners, will become part of an “integrated entry and exit data system” with the identities of visa holders who hope to enter the US (Section 414).

• Any Internet provider or telephone company must turn over customer information, including phone numbers called – no court order required – if the FBI claims the “records sought are relevant to an authorised investigation to protect against international terrorism.” The company contacted may not “disclose to any person” that the FBI is doing an investigation (Section 505).

• Credit reporting firms like Equifax must disclose to the FBI any information that agents request in connection with a terrorist investigation – without police needing to seek a court order first. Previously, law permitted this only in espionage cases (Section 505).

• The definition of terrorism has been radically expanded to include biochemical attacks and computer hacking (Section 808).

• A new crime of “cyberterrorism” is added, which covers hacking attempts causing damage “aggregating at least $5,000 in value” in one year, any damage to medical equipment or “physical injury to any person.” Prison terms range between five and 20 years (Section 814).

• New computer forensics labs are being created to inspect “seized or intercepted computer evidence relating to criminal activity (including cyberterrorism)” and to train federal agents (Section 816).

USA Patriot may well be freedom’s dying hour. Even ordinary businesses, like chemists and bookstores, are being pressed into war service on the home front. The Act requires shop owners to monitor their customers and report “suspicious transactions” to the Treasury Department. Most businesses aren’t aware of their new obligations yet, but if they don’t comply they may well be investigated for being ‘terrorist collaborators.’ Any person engaged in a trade or business has to file a government report if a customer spends $10,000 or more in cash. The threshold is cumulative and applies to multiple purchases if they’re somehow related – three $4,000 pieces of furniture, for example, might trigger a filing. The government is turning an untrained populace into the monitors of money laundering activity.

The new legislation also expands investigative and prosecutorial power, including wider use of undercover agents to infiltrate organisations, longer jail sentences and lifetime supervision for some who have served their sentences, more crimes that can receive the death penalty and longer statutes of limitations for prosecuting crimes. Another provision of the bill makes it a crime for a person to fail to notify the FBI if he has “reasonable grounds to believe” that someone is about to commit a terrorist offence. The language of this provision is so vague that anyone, however innocent, with any connection to anyone suspected of being a terrorist can be prosecuted.

The legislation will revive domestic spying in ways not seen since the days of the civil rights movement. Minister Louis Farrakhan of the US-based Nation of Islam organisation has slammed the proposed powers which he likens to the FBI’s Cointelpro program. The mandate of Cointelpro, spelled out in one of the piles of secret documents released by US Senate investigators in 1976, was to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and neutralise” groups and individuals the FBI considered politically objectionable. In particular, the FBI exploited differences between black organisations and leaders through anonymous-FBI sent letters and telephone calls. Under Cointelpro, information gleaned from wiretaps was leaked to undermine trust, crime was encouraged by government operatives, and personal and moral weaknesses were taken advantage of and lied about. The FBI listed individuals targeted under categories variously called “Rabble Rouser Index,” “Agitator Index,” and the “Security Index.” The results were immediate and devastating. More than half of its spy targets were political groups.

THE STAR CHAMBER1

A contentious measure, proposed by the US without a whimper from the UN, is the use of secret military tribunals, a modern day Star Chamber. President Bush’s Military Order of 13 November, 2001 permits the use of such tribunals against any non-citizen accused of terrorism. Defending Bush’s Order, Vice President Dick Cheney said terrorism suspects “don’t deserve the same guarantees and safeguards that would be used for an American citizen going through the normal judicial process,” and that a military tribunal “guarantees that we’ll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve.”

While the order specifically refers to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, the controversial move prompted the American Council for Civil Liberties to write to members of Congress, urging representatives to “consider carefully the breadth of the Military Order, and to reclaim its constitutional power by deciding for itself under what circumstances, if any, military tribunals should be authorised in terrorism cases and to ensure that basic due process protections are preserved.”

The order applies to some 20 million non-citizens in the United States, most of whom are legal residents and any other non-citizen anywhere else in the world, permitting indefinite detention without trial. It could, at the stroke of a pen, be expanded to include United States citizens.

At a hearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee on 6 December, US Attorney General John Ashcroft swept aside concerns over the tribunals, charging that his critics “aid terrorists” and “give ammunition to America’s enemies.”

The issue of military tribunals has even alarmed the US establishment media. In a column in the 15 November New York Times, entitled “Seizing Dictatorial Power,” longtime Republican operative William Safire wrote that “a president of the United States has just assumed what amounts to dictatorial power... with the replacement of the American rule of law with military kangaroo courts… On what legal meat does this our Caesar feed?” he asked. And a 16 November editorial in the Times, headlined “A Travesty of Justice,” commented, “With the flick of a pen, in this case, Mr. Bush has essentially discarded the rulebook of American justice painstakingly assembled over the course of more than two centuries.”

In addition to these measures, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has rushed out proposed legislation, urging the US states to adopt a law allowing public health authorities to take over hospitals, seize drug supplies, quarantine people exposed to infectious pathogens, draft doctors to treat them, force patients to be vaccinated, and order police to restrain residents from leaving contaminated areas. Critics of the proposal say it threatens to create a public health “police state” that could spur people to panic and flee, helping to spread deadly germs farther afield. Under the proposed law, one case of smallpox in a public school could trigger authorities to urge a governor to declare a state of emergency.2 

A scenario straight out of George Orwell’s 1984 is the most likely outcome if things are let go at the present rate and no attention is paid to the civil liberties implications of 11 September and the slippery slope of surveillance and monitoring of citizens.

Already, relatively innocuous organisations have become the target of surveillance and harassment. In a recent email to its subscribers, the Culture Jammers network revealed that its Corporate America Flag billboard in Times Square, New York, had attracted the attention of the Federal Department of Defense and a visit by an agent who asked a lot of pointed questions about the Jammer’s motivation and intent.

As part of the ‘war on terror’, other countries including Australia, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and France have also introduced repressive legislation.

Ignacio Ramonet put it succinctly in a recent article for Le Monde Diplomatique: “Defenders of civil rights have good reason for alarm. What had seemed to be a general movement in our societies towards a greater respect for individuals and their liberties has been abruptly put on hold. Everything suggests a police-state future.”3

AUSTRALIA’S NEW KGB

The Australian federal government rushed to support the US in the wake of 11 September. As deputy sheriff in the Pacific and the virtual 51st state of the USA, Australia immediately activated the ANZUS treaty, which detractors were quick to point out should only have been invoked if attacks occurred on Australian soil.

Federal Cabinet, meeting on 17 December last year, proposed a string of new counter terrorism laws, urged on by American allies. At the time of writing, the government had implemented a high-level review of Australia’s counter-terrorism arrangements, promising to vastly expand the powers of its domestic spy agency, the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). The review, headed by Attorney-General’s Department Secretary Robert Cornall, found that “the profound shift in the international security environment meant that Australia’s profile as a terrorist target had risen and there was a higher level of terrorist threat.”

Cabinet subsequently endorsed a raft of measures to enhance Australia’s “ability to meet the challenges of the new terrorist environment.” The proposals include:

• Permitting State or Federal Police, acting in conjunction with ASIO, to arrest a person and bring that person before a prescribed authority, to “protect the public from politically motivated violence”. In other words, ASIO will get the power of arrest – which it has never had before. It will be able to detain people for questioning for up to 48 hours. And although it will have to go through the formality of obtaining a warrant from a federal magistrate, it is an enormous shift in its operations. Brought before a prescribed authority, detainees will not have the right to silence. By refusing to answer questions, they can be jailed for up to five years.

• A special new offence of terrorism – based on the UK Terrorism Act 2000 – to include violent attacks or threats of violent attacks “intended to advance a political, religious or ideological cause which are directed against or endanger Commonwealth interests”, with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

• Amendments to the Crimes Act allowing terrorist assets to be seized.

• ASIO, in the presence of a prescribed authority, will be able to question people who are not themselves suspected of terrorist activity, but who “may have information that may be relevant to ASIO’s investigations into politically motivated violence.”

• Inserting terrorism offences into the Criminal Code, carrying a maximum penalty of 25 years jail.

• Criminalising the funding of terrorism, which will carry the maximum penalty.

• Amending the Financial Transaction Reports Act to ensure the reporting of possible terrorist-related transactions.

• Changing the law to allow ASIO access to unread emails.

Civil libertarians have warned that the new powers proposed for domestic spy agency ASIO would turn it into Australia’s own KGB. Civil Liberties Council spokesman Cameron Murphy said the government’s plan was unwarranted, and likened the resulting organisation to the Russian secret police of the Cold War.

“They (the Government) haven’t demonstrated that there’s public need for the powers and they really are going to turn ASIO into a secret police,” he told Channel Seven television. “The last time we saw these sort of powers being given to an ASIO or intelligence service was like the KGB – it’s that severe.”

There will be no sunset clause and ASIO’s new powers will last indefinitely. According to Murphy, once the imminent crisis of terrorism is over, “what we’ll find is that ASIO’s attention will focus on innocent members of the Australian public… A response is necessary, but this is too much of a response... the Government is going the whole hog and giving them too much power.”

Noted civil libertarian and former Victorian MLC, Joan Coxsedge, addressing a Human Rights forum in Melbourne, slammed the legislation: “If these proposals become law, then anyone criticising their boss, the government or our lousy social system, could be targeted. Our most basic freedoms, the freedom to speak out, the freedom of association and freedom of movement – are being threatened as never before.”

“These are fascist laws for fascist times. We must oppose them with every ounce of our energy in every way we can. Make your views known to the Prime Minister and Attorney-General – especially to your local member of parliament – and write to all opposition members in the Senate, where they could combine forces to defeat the legislation.”

She concluded her talk by mentioning a disturbing report in the Australian Financial Review on a speech given by Australia's Major-General Cosgrove to the Army’s annual Land Warfare conference in Sydney on 12 November, 2001.

The message of his speech was about the necessity to “politicise our [Australian] army so it would be prepared to take part in operations against civilian dissidents or militant trade unionists in an industrial situation. Among other things, the General warned that the attacks against the US had 'blurred the hitherto quite distinct boundaries of the functions and responsibilities of the security, law and order and administrative arms of government – we must have the ability to make each constable or soldier a sort of Karnak the all-knowing.'”

UK’S LAST SALUTE TO FREEDOM

In the UK, sweeping new powers have been bestowed upon intelligence agencies under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act. Ministers refused to accept a sunset clause which would have meant the legislation fell after one year. Radical dissenters in Britain have already been identified as terrorists by the Terrorism Act 2000 which came into force in mid 2001. Now they are likely to be treated as such and may be subject to much harsher penalties for any anti-State activities.

Under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, the British Home Secretary gets the power to detain suspected international terrorists without trial where their deportation is not possible. Police can require financial institutions to provide information on accounts for up to 90 days. Law enforcement agencies are able to freeze assets at the start of an investigation, rather than when the person is about to be charged.

The government is also proposing to make it a criminal offence to disobey a police officer who has told you to leave a demonstration outside any residential property. On top of that, it will be an offence to attend a demonstration wearing a mask or painted face.

MARTIAL LAW
FOR THE EU?

The strike against civil liberties in Europe mirrors developments in the US. In some respects, the EU is going further than the US with data retention proposals, and other measures such as keeping data on those suspected of public disturbance.

The proposed laws establish a definition of terrorism so broad that it could include workers’ strikes, anti-globalisation protests, and GM crop actions. The new definition of a terrorist will encompass people “who hoped to seriously alter the political, economic or social structure” of the EU.

The measures have alarmed European Union lawyers with some 200 signing an appeal urging European Parliament and EU governments to reject such a broad definition of terrorism.

 “This antiterrorist legislation once imposed will become a real war machine against fundamental democratic rights,” the appeal warned, “and against those who come up against a political and social system with its basis in economics, a system increasingly global and unjust.”

Jan Fermon, a lawyer from Brussels who helped draft the appeal, is concerned that the EU is using the 11 September attack as an excuse to pass proposals designed to quash political dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.

 “Most of these proposals have no relation to terrorism,” Fermon said, “but the EU is now using 9-11 to get them passed without criticism.”

CANADA’S JACKBOOT
JUGGERNAUT

Canada’s Liberal government is rushing to enact an “anti-terrorism” bill that breaks with key tenets of British-Canadian jurisprudence. Bill C-36 establishes a new order of “terrorist” crimes for which the state will have special investigative and prosecutorial powers.

The Bill lists 35 offences, taken from ten international agreements and protocols, liable to be defined as terrorist acts. Then, in a second section it further defines as a terrorist act “an act or omission, in or outside Canada, that is committed... for a political, religious or ideological purpose” and that is aimed at causing any of the following: death or injury; “substantial property damage” or “serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private...”

The last clause is particularly ominous, since it and another sub-clause that mentions threats to Canadians’ “economic security” could be used to smear work stoppages, blockades and other acts of civil disobedience as “terrorism,” and thus threaten participants with massive legal sanctions. The Quebec Bar Association has cautioned: “It would be a mistake… to believe that this law will not eventually be used against Canadians who are not terrorists.”

In an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, a coalition of community groups and religious and ethnic advocacy groups asked him to oppose the legislation. “The Anti-terrorism Act is itself a threat to the legal and civil rights that Canadians now enjoy,” the letter said.

Anti-globalisation protesters fear they could be tried under language that says “anyone who commits a violent attack on the official premises, private accommodation or means of transport of an internationally protected person that is likely to endanger life or liberty” commits a terrorist act.

ID CARDS AND BIOMETRICS

The goal of terrorism is to paralyse the population and government by encouraging totalitarianism. Many have compared the 11 September attack to the burning of the Reichstag that lead to the Nazi takeover of the German government in 1933. 11 September serves well those who believe that safety and state security are more important than freedom. So far, there has been little time for rational, logical thinking. Instead, all we hear are calls for a bigger hammer and a readier willingness to use it.

Just days after 11 September, Chairman and CEO of Oracle Corp., Larry Ellison, called for the creation of a national ID system in the US and offered to provide the software for it without charge.

“We need a national ID card with our photograph and thumbprint digitised and embedded in the card. We need a database behind that so when you’re walking into an airport and you say that you are Larry Ellison, you take that card and put it in a reader and you put your thumb down and that system confirms that this is Larry Ellison,” he urged.

Responding to concerns over the privacy implications of his give-a-way system, Ellison said: “Well, this privacy you’re concerned about is largely an illusion. All you have to give up is your illusions, not any of your privacy.” Oracle has a longstanding relationship with the US federal government. The CIA was Ellison’s first customer and the company’s name stems from a CIA funded project launched in the mid 1970’s that sought better ways of storing and retrieving digital data.

A national ID card system was one of the first calls to deal with the terrorist threat. An ID card itself, offers no protection from terrorism, instead it creates a system of internal passports that would significantly diminish the freedom and privacy of law-abiding citizens. Once put in place, it is exceedingly unlikely that such a system would be restricted to its original purpose. Americans, Australians, British, French, German and Canadian citizens have long had an instinctive aversion to building a society in which the authorities could act like totalitarian sentries and demand “your papers please!”

For the moment, officials from all 50 US states have agreed to cooperate on upgrading driver’s license security features, giving momentum to efforts to turn the licenses into de facto national identity cards. The state officials are expected to request $70 million or more in federal funds to study issues like how they might include data such as fingerprints or digital photographs on the driver’s licenses, which are carried by more than 200 million Americans.

Meanwhile, the biometrics industry is rubbing its hands with glee as governments and corporations search for new and unnecessary counter terrorist measures. Biometric identification is set to become the norm at US airports. Since 1993, the US has been trialling an Immigration and Naturalisation Service Passenger Accelerated Service System card (INSPASS), digitally recording the hand geometry of more than 45,000 travellers. How the biometrics industry can play a role in what is arguably the emerging police state was thrashed out at the Aviation Security Summit, held in Washington from 4 to 5 February. A keynote speaker was John D. Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee.

CRY OF THE CRITICS

Since 11 September, there has been an attempt to say that anti-globalisation equals anti-Americanism. Activists have been stunned into a phase of relative quiet by the terrorist attacks. Many groups are beginning to see themselves as a Peace Movement II. Others believe that the movement has been undermined. Globalisation watchdogs report not knowing how to position themselves in what is acknowledged to be a new political context. It is suggested that they have been weakened by the general tone of global cooperation and the rhetoric employed by Western leaders.

There are a few lone wolves who continue to point out the hypocrisy of the ‘war on terror’. To them, the United States and the globalisation it has imposed are an intricate part of the problem. Some critics point to an ominous future for democracy and freedom in the West.

Outspoken US writer Gore Vidal denounced Washington for waging what he called “a perpetual war for perpetual peace,” and said American aggression was only nurturing fresh hatreds. In a scathing attack on US foreign policy, Vidal told Reuters that the United States would have been better served trying to buy peace with Osama bin Laden rather than send in the bombers to try and kill him.

Writing in The Guardian on 30 October, 2001, George Monbiot, Honorary Professor at the Department of Politics in Keele and Visiting Professor at the Department of Environmental Science at the University of East London, reminded readers that for the past 55 years, the US has been running its own terrorist training camp, whose victims massively outnumber the people killed by the attack on New York, the embassy bombings and the other atrocities laid, rightly or wrongly, at al-Qaeda’s door.

“The camp is called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, or Whisc. It is based in Fort Benning, Georgia, and it is funded by Mr. Bush’s Government,” Monibot said in his column. “Until January this year, Whisc was called the ‘School of the Americas’ or SOA. Since 1946, SOA has trained more than 60,000 Latin American soldiers and policemen. Among its graduates are many of the continent’s most notorious torturers, mass murderers, dictators and state terrorists,” he said.

OPERATION NORTHWOODS

As well as training terrorists on the home front, the US administration at one time during the 1960’s considered launching terrorist attacks on American soil. Code-named Operation Northwoods,4 the plans included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a US ship and even orchestrating violent terrorism in US cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new communist leader, Fidel Castro. America’s top military brass even contemplated causing US military casualties, writing: “We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,” and, “casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.”

Details of the plans are described in Body of Secrets, a new book by investigative reporter James Bamford about the history of America’s largest spy agency, the National Security Agency. Bamford notes that while the plans were not connected to the agency, they had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. Thankfully, the plans were rejected by the civilian leadership and subsequently remained undisclosed for nearly 40 years.

URBAN WARFARE

So long as the ‘war on terror’ continues, breaches of constitutional law and the ongoing extension of totalitarian measures can be justified. Eventually, the ‘war on terror’ will become internalised. By 2025 the world’s population will have reached eight billion. By then, 70 per cent of humanity will live in towns and cities and, for most of them, life will be survival in an urban jungle.

The Western democracies themselves will face further attacks upon their interests, investments and infrastructure. The US Marine Corps amended its training seven years ago to take in urban warfare and regularly invites officers from Australia, the UK and other countries to share experiments at their Warfighting “laboratory” at Quantico in Virginia. Soldiers fight mythical enemies with real-time, instantly updated information systems. Surveillance systems, ranging from highly sophisticated electronic sensors to unmanned aircraft carrying digital cameras transmit pictures directly to fighting units. This is just a snapshot of the future. Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons are now more than 60 years old. As the ‘war on terror’ heats up, we can expect a new generation of weapons to be unleashed. On the horizon are weapons to modify the weather, weapons to knock out communications systems, genetically engineered bioweapons and a plethora of non lethal weapons to ‘stick em and lick em’.

THE END OF FREEDOM?

The US government thinks of the war against terrorism as a permanent war, a war without boundaries. The danger is that it may also become a permanent war against freedoms.

History shows that times of national crisis are often accompanied by enormous pressure to expand the state apparatus in ways that threaten privacy and civil liberties without enhancing security. In Nazi Germany, for example, emergency decrees (the Notverordnungen) were established in early 1933, on the pretext of the Reichstag (German Parliament) fire. If we smother our liberties in order to protect democracy and freedom, then terrorism wins.

Governments around the world are now instituting measures that would have been politically unthinkable prior to the terror attacks. They are components of a reactionary agenda long sought by the most militant, extreme and conspiratorial sections of the political establishment. We must not forget that intelligence agencies had a role in creating the terrorist threat that we now face. It’s no secret that the CIA funded and trained the networks connected with Osama bin Laden as a response to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Now the same intelligence agencies seek dramatic and sweeping increases in powers to capture a menace of their own making.

While the current rash of anti-democratic measures largely target potential  ‘terrorists’, they constitute a fundamental attack on the basic rights of the entire population. Sooner rather than later, these attacks could be extended to every citizen, especially those who oppose the government’s policies.

In the coming months the Australian government will attempt to wield the big stick against terrorism with intelligence agencies making another grab for power. A handful of representatives with a conscience will vote against the proposed measures, but in the end of the day, the usual bipartisan reign of consensus (or terror?) will win out with civil liberties suddenly becoming negotiable.

Support should be given to all politicians who are opposed to anti-democratic measures. Whether they are from the left or right, we must support anyone with the courage to oppose the police state. Divide and conquer tactics must not threaten resistance to totalitarian ideals.

Letters to the Editor, letters to MP’s, distribution of literature, radio talk back shows, public meetings and peaceful demonstrations may seem frail weapons against the arsenal of counter terrorist measures but mass public opinion will eventually weigh heavier than the bullets and missiles of the military industrial complex. It is our generation and those after us who will perish as slaves if we do not defend the light of freedom which is now being rapidly extinguished. As George Monbiot says: “Dissent is most necessary just when it is hardest to voice.”

Footnotes:

1. Star Chamber: An English court of law active in the Tudor and early Stuart periods, abolished by the Long Parliament in 1641. An outgrowth of the royal council, it was made up of privy councillors as well as judges and supplemented the activities of the common-law and equity courts in both civil and criminal matters. Star Chamber became unpopular as the Stuart kings used it with increasing arbitrariness to enforce the royal prerogative. Its name thus became synonymous with secret, irresponsible court proceedings.

2. The controversial legislation can be downloaded from www.publichealthlaw.net/MSEHPA/MSEHPA.pdf
3. Ignacio Ramonet, “Farewell liberty”, Le Monde Diplomatique, January 2002.
4. Reported on ABC News, 1 May 2001, by David Ruppe, http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/jointchiefs_010501.html

The above article appeared in
New Dawn No. 71
(March-April 2002)