The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Doomed to die: civil liberties in the US

Here are three articles about the Bush admin's
incursions into US civil liberties going back
to 2001/2002.

1) "Chilled Criticism on Campus". That was about
100 percent support for the bombing of Afghanistan
on campuses - there was only 92 percent. So Lynne
Cheney published a report titled, "Defending
Civilization: How Our  Universities Are Failing
America and What Can Be Done About It." She listed
incidents of speech or activities that were
"short of patriotism":

"Professors across the country sponsored teach-ins
that typically ranged from moral equivocation to
explicit condemnation of America," the report said.
"Many invoked tolerance and diversity as antidotes
to evil."

2) "Political Dissent Can Bring Federal Agents to
Your Door." That's when the FBI encouraged Americans
to report fellow cititizens - for critizicing Bush,
for example: "He is a servant of the big oil
companies". Possessing "un-American material"
was suspect too, e.g., a Bush poster that read,
"We hang on your every word,"

3) "Has the Attorney General Been Reading Franz Kafka?"
This had to do with the USA Patriot Act where book
store owners and librarians must reveal the names
of customers and patrons to the FBI. And once the
information is given, a gag order is automatically

I apologize for sticking three fairly long articles
in one post.

If anyone has Bush's mailing address (business),
please post it. He deserves to know what is
happening to his own people so he can stop
preaching about democracy and freedom to the
rest of us, especially to the Iraqis.



University Of Georgia

Chilled Criticism on Campus

Professors' Loss of Critical Speech about the
Terrorist Attacks

By Chrys Egan

Object Magazine, December 2001

"If you can't question the government's policies on a
college campus, then where can you? And if those
terrorists really do hate us because we're free, then
why stifle the very freedom that distinguished us from
them?"--Sheryl McCarthy (A48)

The crisp fall air was not the only cold wind blowing
across America's higher education campuses this autumn.
The ominous winds from the World Trade Center and
Pentagon collapses not only blew debris, financial
documents, and government reports, but a chilling effect
on free speech and diversity that would soon drift
across America and its campuses.

Professors and students, conservatives and liberals,
published documents and casual speech, all were attacked
for opposing their campus or community dominant ideologies.

Perhaps the most potentially damaging attack on speech
and international tolerance came November 13 via the
38-page "Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are
Failing America and What Can Be Done about It" report
issued by the Project of the Defense of Civilization
Fund operated by the American Council of Trustees and
Alumni (ACTA). The report blames higher education
faculty for society's moral ills, demands nationalism
and exclusively positive US-slanted history courses, and
documents 117 incidents of recent campus speech or
activities deemed "short on patriotism."

ACTA's report should disturb proponents of criticism,
freedom of thought, and multiculturalism for several
reasons. First, the strong political ties to the Bush-
Cheney administration make this organization especially
powerful and threatening to those who would dissent.
ACTA co-founder Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President
Dick Cheney, served as chairwoman until recently and is
quoted throughout the report. When Bush warned that
those not with him were against him, who knew he meant
that the Vice President's wife would be taking names?

Wherever possible, this document "blacklists"
individuals and campuses by name, claiming they are
unpatriotic, poisoning today's youth, and harming
America's success in the "war on terrorism."
Additionally, ACTA bases these claims, in part, on
campus comments and actions that seek: peace over
bloodshed, critical understanding of US history and
foreign affairs, or sensitivity toward other nations,
ethnicities, and religions. For example, ACTA bemoans
the fact that some campus members "invoked tolerance and
diversity as antidotes" to war and hatred. Further, ACTA
states that these 117 instances are representative of
the national trend on campuses. Just how representative
these cases are is questionable because, among other
reasons: they are not random, but selected to illustrate
a particular agenda; the cases involve just 32 schools
(most often cited were the University of North Carolina-
Chapel Hill, Brown University, Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, and City University of New York); only 58
examples (about half) clearly identify faculty
involvement, yet some individuals are listed multiple
times. Even if these cases are indicative of national
campus trends, ACTA's oversimplification and
overstatement of the problem, scapegoats the academy by
proclaiming, "college and university faculty have been
the weak link in America's response to the attack." In
so doing, the document insinuates that if the US loses
the "war on terrorism," then the fault lies not with
flawed US policies, but with the critical voices within
our nation's universities.

Not surprisingly, the report is overtly biased against
liberals and others desiring peace or presenting
alternative views. For instance, the report leads
readers to believe that liberalism has run amuck and
that anti-war or critical US comments met with
uproarious cheers on all campuses. The report
conveniently neglects to document that retaliation
against dissenting faculty included suspension,
intimidation, public defamation, legal charges of
treason, and threats of violent and sexual assault, just
to cite a few. Ironically, the report states, it "is not
an argument for limiting free speech on college
campuses," yet obviously the organization strives to
limit critical dissent. The report begins by denouncing
faculty declaiming against the general popular support
for military action, rather than acknowledging the
dangers of group-think and the value of skepticism. The
report's editors seem genuinely appalled that the "war"
has only received 92% support, not 100%.

Finally, ACTA proposes that the solution to societal
ills is requiring history and civics courses that
exclusively present positive aspects of the US. Thus
ACTA's insistence that they champion academic freedom
reveals itself as a transparent ploy to do away with any
critical analysis of US history or policies. While more
information is always useful when addressing problems,
the best information is always complete information,
both positive and negative. Because of the reasons
listed, this report has significant ramification for
critical discussion of dissent and tolerance.

The issue is not whether the dissenters have the First
Amendment right to their comments. They do. The issue is
not whether their critics have the First Amendment right
to disapprove. They do. The real issue is the general
lack of tolerance for disagreement, and what this
intolerance will cost individuals, our campuses, our
nation, and our world.

Faculty Incidents in the ACTA Report and Beyond

"It is disturbing that Americans have been censured for
expressing legitimate--though unpopular--positions. It
is even more disturbing that these challenges to free
speech have occurred on college campuses, where the free
exchange of ideas is the chief educational mission."--
Columbia Daily Spectator Editorial

Of the 117 incidents in the ACTA report, roughly half
clearly identify, either by name or by title, faculty
members at US colleges and universities who are
blacklisted for being: anti-war, concerned for other
nations, critical of US history or foreign policy, or an
infringement on conservative's rights. While all faculty
examples cannot be analyzed in detail here, a few cases
illustrate both the agenda and flaws of the ACTA report.
These sample institutional incidents were chosen because
other media sources presented additional information on
the cases.

One common ACTA theme is telling half the story,
particularly omitting retaliation against critical
professors. ACTA and other sources report that at a town
council meeting, Jennie Traschen, Physics professor at
the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, described the
US flag as a "symbol of terrorism and death and fear and
destruction and oppression." ACTA fails to report that
outraged townspeople published Traschen's comments, e-
mail address, and home information on the Internet. This
retaliation allowed citizens across the country to
harass her, which they did in droves. She was bombarded
with phone calls and e-mails threatening violent and
sexual assault. As a result, the Boston Globe reported
that she has "decided to be quiet."

As with Traschen, ACTA presents only their version of
the story concerning University of New Mexico professor
Richard Berthold, whose case also was reported in the
Boston Globe and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Berthold,
tenured History professor for three decades, off-
handedly remarked, "Anyone who can blow up the Pentagon
gets my vote."Since causing the controversy, Berthold
admitted the joke was in poor taste. In a rather
unorthodox apology, Bethold said, "I was a jerk, but the
First Amendment protects my right to be a jerk."
However, not all agree, since "alumni, lawmakers, and
colleagues called for Richard Berthold... to resign."

Representative William Fuller (R-Albuquerque), a retired
Army colonial with a son working at the Pentagon, wants
Berthold fired. Additionally, Fuller charges Berthold
with treason, claiming "Treason is giving aid or comfort
to the enemy. Any terrorist who heard Berthold's comment
was comforted." University President William Gordon says
Berthold will be dealt with "through internal
disciplinary procedures" and University Provost Brain
Foster adds, "It's not a speech issue; it's a
professional ethics issue" meaning Berthold could be
punished for his actions -- thus skirting the supposed
protections tenure confers. However, the ACTA report
ignores this retaliation and merely reports the comment
and apology to "prove" the liberal bias poisoning young

One of the biggest campus controversies to emerge
involves City College of New York's October 2 "teach-in"
sponsored by the Professional Staff Congress, attended
by 200 people, and advertised as "authoritative
information from the faculty... on the recent
terrorist attacks, America's response, and related long-
term domestic and international repercussions." ACTA
briefly paraphrases responses from the Professional
Staff Congress and faculty at the forum; the only direct
quotes are from Professors Crane and Daum, and the
accuracy is debatable. According to a New York Post
editorial, Psychology professor William Crane said he
wanted "peace, not war" and that "U.S. alliances have
shifted... the constant is violence... We need to
address that and work for peace." In subsequent
interviews, Crane claimed that The New York Post's
original article misquoted him as saying "our diplomacy
is horrible." On the other hand, mathematics professor
Walter Daum claimed that although he was quoted
correctly, he was trying to explain the attacks, not
justify them when he said, "The ultimate responsibility
lies with the rulers of this country, the capitalist
ruling class of this country." Daum later added, "All of
us were misrepresented above all because the [Post]
article implied that the forum was about the terrorists
being freedom fighters.

As far as I know nobody said that... I among others
called them murders and criminals," and "In no way am I
sympathetic to what was mass murder." Daum's clarifying
statements are omitted from the ACTA report and his
alleged statement that "American imperialism is
responsible for this terrorist attack," is questionable
since several of the attendees claim the New York Post
article reporting the quote was highly biased and

While ACTA's report includes some CUNY faculty
statements and possible misquotations, it neglects the
tremendous outcry against CUNY faculty, again implying
there was none. Readers would need to consult the New
York Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, or other
sources to gain a full picture of the backlash against
CUNY faculty. While CUNY President Gregory Williams
defended the right to hold a debate, the chancellor and
trustees did not share this view. Chancellor Goldstein,
who did not attend the event, said it was vital to
uphold "the free exchange of ideas," while
simultaneously berating his faculty's "lame excuses...
with arguments based on ideological or historical
circumstances." Goldstein added that "There are no
excuses for deliberate actions taken to kill innocent
people." However, when his faculty echoed similar
sentiments concerning America's counter attack,
Goldstein considered their remarks appalling. In
addition to Goldstein, Trustee Jeffery Wiesenfeld and
other Board members similarly condemned the faculty. The
trustees' proposed resolution claimed the faculty's
"outrageous" comments were "self-indulgent;" the
trustees have since abandoned their resolution (McCarthy
A48). Wiesenfeld personally added that the faculty's
"selfish, tasteless, and unjustified conduct, brought
shame to the City University of New York." Realizing he
cannot legally fire the faculty, Wiesenfeld proposed
instead that "they have the invitation to take a hike."
Again, none of this backlash against dissenters is noted
by ACTA in its one-sided view of campus reactions to the
terrorist attacks.

In fact, ACTA's only mention of backlash at all is
against conservatives, once more conveying the false
impression that all other professors cited in the report
faced no retaliation. One such example of conservative
backlash criticized in the report involved Ken Hearlson,
Political Science instructor at Orange Coast Community
College. ACTA states that Hearlson was "suspend[ed],"
while other sources say he was "on leave," after several
Muslim students in his class were offended when Hearlson
referred to the attackers and their supporters as
"terrorists" and "murderers." ACTA's implication is that
Hearlson faced retaliation and free speech violations,
which he did. While this too may be an unfair abuse of
free academic discourse, no such sympathy is granted by
ACTA to those professors critical of the war.

ACTA's paradoxical stance on critical speech is summed
up in its statement that "Indeed, the robust exchange of
ideas is essential to a free society. But it is equally
important, and never more so than in these unsettling
times, to insist that colleges and universities transmit
our history and heritage to the next generation." But
ACTA would do well to heed its own advice. Their report
clearly does not advocate the "robust exchange of ideas"
which are "important, and never more so than in these
unsettling times." They instead call for unanimity of
thought, and word, and deed. Further, they must consider
what message they are really sending about "our history
and heritage to the next generation." While admirable to
teach students positive messages about the US, ACTA
instead revisits shameful eras of censorship and
intolerance throughout history.

Perhaps the most telling indicator of the future of
campus free speech lies not in the organizations with
powerful political ties, but in campus tolerance of
criticism and cultural differences. Ironically, those
who would mute dissenters not only attack their friends,
neighbors, and colleagues, but their own right to
dissent. As George Orwell noted, "If large numbers of
people believe in the freedom of speech, there will be
freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it. But if
public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will
be persecuted, even if the laws exist to protect them."
Such is the challenge in the wake of September 11.



Published on Tuesday, January 8, 2002
in the [10] Christian Science Monitor

New McCarthyism
Political Dissent Can Bring Federal Agents to Your Door

by Kris Axtman

HOUSTON - It was 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 7 when the two men
showed up.

Donna Huanca was alone, getting ready to open Houston's
Art Car Museum. "They looked like robots," she says.

She told the men, dressed in dark suits and carrying
leather portfolios, that they would have to wait until
the doors opened at 11. That was when they flipped out
their badges: They were federal agents investigating
reports of "anti-American activity" at the tiny art

Anti-American Art?
ART: The FBI was interested in this image of George Bush.
Photo by Kris Axtman of art by Tim Glover

To FBI special agent Terrence Donahue and Steven Smith
of the Secret Service, it was a routine mission to check
out one of the more than 435,000 tips they have received
since Sept. 11.

To Ms. Huanca, whose gallery was opening "Secret Wars,"
an exhibit on US covert operations and government
secrets, it was something else. "What's anti-American
about freedom of speech?" the docent blurted out.

The incident, which ended after an hour of questioning,
represents more than just a disturbing day for one
museum staffer. Across the US, growing numbers of
Americans are facing similar interrogations -
apparently, they say, because they have criticized the
government, President Bush, or the war on terrorism.

Not everyone is bothered by the inquiries. Indeed, by
responding to a torrent of tips federal agents are doing
exactly what many Americans want them to do.

But as the nation mounts a zealous campaign against
domestic terror, some observers say federal agencies are
walking a delicate line between checking out leads and
trampling on free speech.

"If the FBI is investigating art exhibits at museums,
then the line has been crossed," says First Amendment
scholar David Cole at Georgetown University in
Washington. "The FBI should investigate any credible
leads where federal criminal activity may be undertaken.
But it should avoid investigating any political

The rise in doorstep inquiries reflects, in part, a new
law-enforcement reality. Suddenly, it may seem hard to
know who might be the next to steer a plane into a
building. It also reflects raw math. There are simply
many more tips to check.

"Remarks made toward the president in an antagonistic
way are checked out by the Secret Service. That's always
been the case," says Jill Spillman, an FBI agent
detailed to the Justice Department. "The FBI checks out
[possible] domestic terrorism." She says the people
visited are under no obligation to answer questions and
are not necessarily viewed as suspects.

But Attorney General John Ashcroft's post-September
policy is that each tip be looked into. While not every
tip leads to a face-to-face visit, surprise encounters
with federal agents are leaving some Americans feeling
their privacy has been violated - and that their speech
has made them targets of official scrutiny.

For example, A.J. Brown, a student at Durham Technical
Community College in North Carolina, faced 40 minutes of
grilling by two Secret Service agents and a Raleigh
police officer in her doorway (she wouldn't let them
come in, and they had no search warrant). By her
account, they said they were investigating a tip that
she had "un-American material" in her apartment. From
the doorway, they took particular note of a poster of
George W. Bush holding a noose. It read: "We hang on
your every word," referring to his unflinching support
of the death penalty as governor of Texas.

Then there's San Franciscan Barry Reingold, who was
awakened from his afternoon nap by a buzzing intercom on
Oct. 23. He called down to the street to find out who it
was. "The FBI," was the response. He buzzed the two men
up, but decided to meet them in the hall. "I was a
little bit shaken up," says Mr. Reingold. "I mean, why
would the FBI be interested in me, a 60-year-old retired
phone company worker?"

When they asked if he worked out at a certain gym, he
realized the reason behind the visit. The gym is where
he lifts weights - and expounds on his political views.

Since Sept. 11, the sessions have been heated. Once, he
recalls, "discussion turned to [Osama] bin Laden and
what a horrible murderer he was. I said, 'Yeah, he's
horrible and did a horrible thing, but Bush has nothing
to be proud of. He is a servant of the big oil
companies, and his only interest in the Middle East
is oil.' "

Some fellow weightlifters called Reingold a disloyal
American. One, apparently, called the government.

So it was that two agents were standing in his hall.
"They said, 'You know you are entitled to freedom of
speech.' And I said, 'Thank you. That ends our
conversation.' " When Reingold closed his door, he heard
one of the agents say: "But we still need to do a

As the overheard comment suggests, the FBI and Secret
Service view many of these checkups as a routine, almost
innocuous, part of their job.

Still, the task has taken on fresh relevance after the
terrorist attacks.

"Just because we [talked] to ABC Flight School doesn't
mean they did something wrong," says Robert Doguim of
the Houston FBI. "But how irresponsible of us would it
be if we didn't talk to someone?"

He says the Art Car Museum and its exhibit (which had
been planned months before Sept. 11) were deemed "not
dangerous" after the agents' visit.

But to Huanca, the face-off seemed unnecessary and
intimidating. She says the G-men puzzled over each art
installation, sneering and saying things like, "What's
that supposed to mean?"

Drawing conclusions from cases like this is tricky,
since the reality could involve more, or less, than
either side tells the media. But Barry Steinhardt,
associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union
in Washington, finds the anecdotal evidence deeply

"All of this speaks to the new McCarthyism, where
political dissent is being equaled to treason," Mr.
Steinhardt says. "It's a very frightening trend: that
people are doing nothing more than expressing the very
freedoms that we are fighting to preserve - and find
themselves with the FBI at their door."

Copyright ) 2002 The Christian Science Monitor

) Copyrighted 1997-2001 [21]



Posted February 22nd, 2002 5:00 PM

Nat Hentoff

Has the Attorney General Been Reading Franz Kafka?
Big John Wants Your Reading List

During the congressional debate on John Ashcroft's USA
Patriot Act, an American Civil Liberties Union fact
sheet on the bill's assaults on the Bill of Rights
revealed that Section 215 of the act "would grant FBI
agents across the country breathtaking authority to
obtain an order from the FISA [Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act] court... requiring any person or
business to produce any books, records, documents, or

This is now the law, and as I wrote last week, the FBI,
armed with a warrant or subpoena from the FISA court,
can demand from bookstores and libraries the names of
books bought or borrowed by anyone suspected of
involvement in "international terrorism" or "clandestine

Once that information is requested by the FBI, a gag
order is automatically imposed, prohibiting the
bookstore owners or librarians from disclosing to any
other person the fact that they have received an order
to produce documents.

You can't call a newspaper or a radio or television
station or your representatives in Congress. You can
call a lawyer, but since you didn't have any advance
warning that the judge was issuing the order, your
attorney can't have objected to it in court. He or she
will be hearing about it for the first time from you.

I have been told that at least three of these court
orders have been served, but that's all the information
I was given not the names of the bookstores or the
libraries. And I can't tell you my source.

Courts do infrequently impose gag orders preceding or
during trials, and newspapers sometimes successfully
fight them. But never in the history of the First
Amendment has any suppression of speech been so sweeping
and difficult to contest as this one by Ashcroft.

For example, if a judge places a gag order on the press
in a case before the court, the press can print the fact
that it's been silenced, and the public will know about

But now, under this provision of the USA Patriot Act,
how does one track what's going on? How many bookstores
and libraries will have their records seized? Are any of
them bookstores or libraries that you frequent? Are
these court orders part of FBI fishing expeditions, like
Ashcroft's mass roundups of immigrants?

And if the FBI deepens its concerns about terrorist
leanings after inspecting a suspect's reading list, how
can everyone else know what books will make the FBI
worry about us?

As one First Amendment lawyer said to me, "What makes
this so chilling is that there is no input into the
process." First there is the secrecy in which the
subpoenas are obtained with only the FBI present in
court. Then then there is the gag order commanding the
persons receiving the subpoenas to remain silent.

Has John Ashcroft been reading Franz Kafka lately?

As I often do when Americans' freedom to read is
imperiled, I called Judith Krug, director of the Office
for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library
Association. I've covered, as a reporter, many cases of
library censorship, and almost invariably, the
beleaguered librarians have already been on the phone to
Judy Krug. She is the very incarnation of the author of
the First Amendment, James Madison.

When some librarians because of community pressure or
their own political views, right or left have wanted to
keep books or other material from readers, Judy has
fought them. She is also the leading opponent of any
attempt to curb the use of the Internet in public

As she has often said, "How can anyone involved with
libraries stand up and say, 'We are going to solve
problems by withholding information'?"

I called to talk with her about the FBI's new power to
force libraries to disclose the titles of books that
certain people are reading and she, of course, knew all
about this part of the USA Patriot Act. And the rest of
it, for that matter.

She told me how any library can ask for help without
breaking the gag order and revealing a FISA visit from
the FBI. The librarian can simply call her at the
American Library Association in Chicago and say, "I need
to talk to a lawyer," and Judy will tell her or him how
to contact a First Amendment attorney.

The reason the president and the attorney general have
so far been able to trade civil liberties for security
is they know from the polls that they can count on
extensive support. Most Americans are indeed willing to
forgo parts of the Bill of Rights for safety.

Only by getting more and more Americans to realize that
they themselves not just noncitizens can be affected by
these amputations of the Bill of Rights will there be a
critical mass of resistance to what Ashcroft and Bush
are doing to our liberties.

Accordingly, the press ought to awaken the citizenry not
only to the FBI's harvesting lists of what "suspect"
Americans read, but also to the judicial silencing of
bookstores and libraries that are being compelled to
betray the privacy and First Amendment rights of

I would welcome any advice from civil liberties lawyers
on ways to counter both this provision of the USA
Patriot Act and the gag order, which is the sort of
silencing you'd expect of China or Iraq. Remember the
repeated assurances by the president, the attorney
general, and the secretary of defense that any security
measures taken in the war on terrorism would be within
the bounds of the Constitution?

Whose Constitution?

George Orwell said: "If large numbers of people believe
in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech
even if the law forbids it. But if public opinion is
sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted,
even if laws exist to protect them."

Today, the public doesn't even know about this provision
in the strangely titled USA Patriot Act. A lot of people
are still afraid to get on a plane. Is Ashcroft fearful
that if people find out about his interest in what
they're reading, they'll be afraid to go to libraries
and bookstores and will start asking questions about
what the hell he thinks he's doing? And where is

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]