He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our Laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation. – Declaration of Independence, the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, July 4, 1776
You need to have a president who understands you can’t win this war with legal papers. We’ve got to use every asset at our disposal. – George W. Bush, ABC News’ Nightline, May 13
Guess what people’s reaction would be if asked the question, “Are you willing to let [the government] into your house without a search warrant?” – Idaho ACLU director Jack Van Valkenburgh, The Idaho Statesman, August 25, 2003
From the 18th century on, the people of this land have resisted government contempt for the rule of the law—starting with King George III. Richard Nixon was forced to resign. There have been local, state, and national rebellions against official racism, and most recently, the breakthroughs of the gay rights movement.
But seldom before has there been so widespread a refusal to trust the national government—cutting across political, religious, ethnic, and other divisions—as the current rising refusal, even during a war on international terrorism, to yield to the Bush administration’s subversions of the Constitution in the urgent cause of national security.
A letter from a citizen printed in the April 13, 2004, Albuquerque Tribune: “Shortly after 9/11, I listened to [New Mexico U.S. Attorney David] Iglesias debate about the Patriot Act. When asked about the enforcement of some of its provisions, his reply was to ‘just trust us. . . . ‘ To ‘just trust’ federal prosecutors—with a blind eye to the Constitution—frightens me.”
Months ago, on a New Mexico radio station, I debated U.S. Attorney Iglesias. When I asked him where, in our laws, the president has the power to imprison American citizens indefinitely, without charges, and without access to lawyers, John Ashcroft’s man in New Mexico explained, “They’re bad guys!” The president himself has given the same justification in the very same conclusory words.
Nancy Talanian, director of the National Bill of Rights Defense Committee, notes that “more than 51 million people, or one in six U.S. residents, live in the more than 300 cities and counties and four states that have passed resolutions” vigorously refusing to trust the Bush administration with their liberties.
She adds that Bush “has warned the American people that the so-called war on terrorism could last for decades. That is a very long time to live without fundamental rights.”
As I’ve reported in this column, a growing number of members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, are insistently filing bills to roll back particularly dangerous sections of the Patriot Act and subsequent attempts by the administration to further bypass the Constitution.
They are listening to their rebellious constituents. In Massachusetts, Marilyn Levin, who is working on a state Bill of Rights Defense Resolution, told a reporter for the Littleton Independent that these resolutions across the country are “a great vehicle for raising consciousness and awareness. . . . Even though a resolution in itself can’t overturn federal laws, what it can do is express public opinion and put pressure on our congressional representatives who do have the power to change the laws.”
And despite George W. Bush’s pleas to keep the Patriot Act intact, there will be critical hearings in Congress before sections of the act come up for renewal next year.
On notice from their constituents, for example, are members of Congress serving Port Huron, Michigan. There The Times Herald on April 25 ended an editorial, “Patriot Act Puts Our Rights in Jeopardy: Bush’s Support Raises Questions”:
“The case for extending the most intrusive provisions of the Patriot Act . . . has not been made. Despite Bush’s support, Americans must remember that it’s far easier to lose freedoms than to get them back. . . . The problem with limits on civil liberties is they affect all, not just some.”
And on April 23, in Whatcom County in Washington State, after residents had lined up for a two-and-a-half-hour debate, Whatcom became the fifth county in the state to pass a resolution vigorously distrusting Bush and Ashcroft.
Mark Polin of the Northwestern Freedom Alliance emphasized during the debate that if we lose our freedoms, the terrorists have won. “When your freedom is lost,” he said, “it doesn’t matter who took it away from you.”
In Tampa, Florida, site of MacDill Air Force, where the Central Command is coordinating the war in Iraq, another Bill of Rights resolution was passed by the city council on April 15. Among the groups endorsing the resistance to Washington were the Tampa Chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women and the Arab American Student Alliance at the University of South Florida.
Said city councilmember Linda Saul-Sena to the St. Petersburg Times: “Isn’t council exciting! It’s a pity I am not wearing red, white, and blue.”
On January 20, The Boston Globe reported: “More than two centuries ago, the patriots of Brewster [Massachusetts] shut down the Colonial courts on Cape Cod in one of the first acts of resistance against the tyrannical rule of King George III. Now, deliberately evoking its Revolutionary history, Brewster Town Meeting has formally condemned the antiterrorist USA Patriot Act.”