Straightaway, Obama's promised "change" and "yes we can" became hard line foreign and domestic extremism, betraying his loyal constituency and any hope for kinder, gentler policies. His populist hypocrisy now exposed, voters are losing faith, but most remain mindless about the harm he commits daily, much of it touching them directly.
Many others add exclamation points about a rogue administration rampaging at home and globally, most recently involved in a failed Ecuadorean coup, and for sending FBI goon squads against Chicago and Minneapolis anti-war/pro-Palestinian activists. No arrests were made, but their homes were ransacked, agents seizing computers, cell phones, books, photos, papers, correspondence, and other possessions. They were also ordered before grand juries from October 5 - 12, potentially facing serious criminal charges for providing material support to terrorism.
The Grand Jury System
The American Bar Association (ABA) explains that grand juries review evidence to determine "whether there is probable cause to return an indictment." Critics, however, say they're rubber stamps for aggressive prosecutors.
In the federal system, they have "extraordinary investigative powers," developed since the 1950s. "This wide, sweeping, almost unrestricted power is the cause of much of the criticism," because prosecutors exploit it advantageously, manipulating proceedings for the outcomes they want, leaving targets unfairly vulnerable to indictments. The Constitution's Fifth Amendment "requires a grand jury indictment for federal criminal charges."
Though nominally independent, they only hear cases prosecutors choose. They also select witnesses, grant discretionary immunity, and do nearly all the questioning. Grand jury members may ask their own after witness testimonies, but their job is to judge what prosecutors present, then decide if enough evidence warrants indictment.
Conducted in secret, no one may disclose what goes on unless ordered to do so judicially. Anyone may be subpoenaed, and must answer questions unless a specific privilege is claimed, such as lawyer/client or self-incrimination. In the federal system, lawyers can't represent their clients while testifying.
In addition, double jeopardy doesn't apply to grand juries, but without indictments, prosecutors need Criminal Division Attorney General permission to try again. Though seldom asked, in a climate of fear, targets remain vulnerable if prosecutors intend to get them, perhaps on new grounds.
The ABA asks, "What protection does a target have against witnesses lying to the grand jury (perhaps for leniency on existing or threatened charges), or against the use of unconstitutionally obtained evidence? None," except to challenge the evidence at trial.
Especially post-9/11, prosecutors want grant jury indictments, manipulate proceedings to get them, leaving targets vulnerable on their own. At fault is the system. It's rigged against them, so many are hung out to dry unfairly. That's what Chicago and Minneapolis anti-war/pro-Palestinian supporters now face, a tough road ahead if Justice Department officials are determined to convict.
Police State Thuggery
Post-9/11, an earlier article explained the path America chose, accessed through this link:
Though well along earlier, the pace accelerated in the last decade. Obama has been as hard line as Bush, showing he's no different from America's worst ever leaders. He may, in fact, be the most dangerous, given the support he so far retains. None of it, of course, is deserved.
Bush made America a police state. Obama hardened it - among other ways through:
- greater intrusive surveillance;
- unjustifiable preventive detentions;
- targeting American citizens for assassination, solely by presidential edict;
- invoking the "state secrets" doctrine to block litigation against rendition, torture, and warrantless wiretapping;
- opposing Net Neutrality;
- threatening free expression and the right to dissent, including online;
- prosecuting whistleblowers as well as journalists and others who protect their anonymity or publish their revelations; and
- making anyone against US extremism vulnerable to lawless political persecutions, especially anti-war and Muslim American activists as well as lawyers who defend them too vigorously.
The USA Patriot Act eroded at least four Bill of Rights freedoms:
- due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments;
- First Amendment free expression; and
- Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches, seizures, and as a consequence privacy.
Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called it "the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by a free people." Patriot Act legislation and today's sophisticated technology make unconstitutional intrusions easier than ever. Obama officials have taken full advantage, besides targeting other freedoms for destruction.
Chicago and Minneapolis State Terror
September 24 raids in both cities are the latest examples - police state terror against (supposedly) constitutionally protected speech, political activism, and right of free association. No matter, innocent people may be slapped with unsubstantiated charges, then criminally prosecuted for providing material support to terrorism.
According to an FBI spokesman, raids were aimed at people "providing, attempting and conspiring to provide material support" to terrorist organizations, meaning, among others, Colombia's FARC-EP, Lebanon's Hezbollah, and Palestine's Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) - no matter their legitimacy, and except for FARC, are part of their countries' governments.
Opposition to War and Occupation (OWO) is a Twin Cities-based education and solidarity group against America's imperial wars - abroad and at home by repressing activists who oppose them. On September 27, it issued the following statement:
OWO "wholeheartedly condemns the recent FBI house raids of social justice activists in Minneapolis and Chicago on Friday, September 24, 2010. These raids are part of the long history of coordinated government repression against those who fight against imperialism and exploitation and those working in solidarity with them."
Victims guilty only of supporting right over wrong are "systematically harassed, targeted, and even murdered in an attempt to undermine struggles for justice." As a result, front line activists must confront state terror "with steadfast resistance to war and occupation, and all forms of state violence," abroad and at home.
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression named October 4 as a national call-in day to Obama and Attorney General Holder, demanding an end to state repression. The Committee also called for solidarity actions outside FBI and federal buildings throughout America on October 5, the first grand jury date.
Supreme Court Endorses State Terrorism
More than ever now, US policy aims to crush dissent, destroy political opposition, and subvert democratic freedoms. On June 21, 2010, the Supreme Court's Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project ruling advanced that disquieting agenda. In a 6 - 3 decision, the Roberts court upheld the "material support" statute's constitutionality (18 USC, 2339B), making it a crime to support any State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), no matter how unwarranted.
At the time, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) argued that:
"the challenged provisions violate the First Amendment insofar as they criminalize the provision of forms of support such as the distribution of literature, engaging in political advocacy, participating in peace conferences, training in human rights advocacy, and donating cash and humanitarian assistance, even when such support is intended solely to promote the lawful and non-violent activities of a designated organization."
Holder's Justice Department disagreed, claiming the statute imposes guilt by association, harming innocent people for the illegal acts of groups they supported. Further, it doesn't require showing intent to support terrorism or other illegal activity.
CCR countered saying, "the statute was unconstitutionally vague, and that the Secretary of State's power to designate groups was too broad, giving the executive too much discretionary power to label groups 'terrorist' (with or without proof) and turn their supporters into outlaws."
With High Court approval, Holder, like his predecessors under Bush, has run rough shot over constitutionally protected freedoms, making anyone for right over wrong vulnerable to criminal prosecution and imprisonment. It's why now, more than ever, America is a police state, a disquieting judgment, putting even activist writers and media hosts at risk, as well as anyone against state extremism.
A Final Comment
After September 24, rallies and protests took place in dozens of US cities against the thuggish FBI raids. On September 27, hundreds mobilized outside its Chicago and Minneapolis offices. On September 28, the Chicago Sun Times headlined, "Protesters target FBI raids," saying:
"Hundreds of protesters gathered outside FBI offices in Chicago and Minneapolis on Monday, bearing signs and shouting chants condemning recent searches of homes and offices of anti-war activists in both cities."
The Minneapolis Star Tribune published a similar report, using an AP story, not its own, that quoted one of the targets, Minnesotan Mick Kelly, saying:
"We have provided no material support. I can't stress that long enough or loud enough, and honestly I don't believe that's why we're facing this scrutiny."
It's for the above-cited reasons - to crush opposition to state-sponsored roguishness abroad and at home, as well as discourage potential new resisters.
An earlier article quoted Merriam-Webster's police state definition, saying it's "characterized by repressive government control....(the) arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police," and in America, the FBI, CIA, and other oppressive agencies, targeting innocent people instead of protecting them.
Post-9/11 especially, George Bush took that route. In less than two years, Obama outdid him, adopting the worst of his policies, establishing more of his own, and accelerating America faster on the road to despotism. Chicago and Minneapolis raids signal worse to come unless mass outrage erupts to stops them. Otherwise, midnight or pre-dawn raids will be the norm on whatever grounds authorities charge against which there's no defense, a possibility too nightmarish to allow.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William John Cox|