Russ Baker

Guns of August

Can you hear the footsteps growing louder?

Mounting anecdotal evidence suggests that civil libertarians were not exaggerating when they began long ago to worry about prospects for dangerous excess in the ‘response’ to 9/11. If it ever was just about the government poking into our requests for library books on the history of timing devices, those days are long past. In the past week alone, the following troubling developments and revelations were reported, but not necessarily widely discussed or appreciated for their collective import:

-On August 7, we could read in the New York Times (Metro Section) about the case of a longtime naturalized American citizen, a New York area-translator, an apparently peaceable fellow, working on a doctorate, with no personal involvement with or sympathies with terror activity, who has been convicted of providing material aid to terrorism and conspiring to deceive the government – and faces a possible 20 years in prison. His boss, Lynne Stewart, defense attorney for the jailed Sheikh Abdul Rahman, was convicted of passing along communications from the cleric. But the translator claims he was simply following her instructions. And it’s far from clear that he understood that anything he did could be seen as aiding terrorism – or that this was his intention.

-On August 8, the Washington Post reported on plans being developed by the Pentagon to have normal military troops intervene domestically in various crisis scenarios. No matter that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 severely restricts the use of troops in domestic law enforcement. The big concern here is that, of course, introducing active-duty troops into the streets of the United States could at least in theory lead to military government. Beyond that, one could raise credible concerns about the transferability of skills troops utilize in war zones, in highly volatile situations where civil liberties and other niceties play little or no role, to the streets of, say, Washington, D.C. or Cleveland. The article contains various reassurances that there’s no cause for alarm. But the Post got this story from “officers who drafted the plans.” Assuming they spoke to the reporter with the permission of their superiors, that means the military is floating the idea to see whether it actually bothers anyone.

-On August 9, we learned about an Illinois student from Qatar being held as an enemy combatant under conditions that, if true, channel Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo. Except that he’s in a navy brig in Charleston, SC. His lawyer claims that he is held in isolation, nearly round-the-clock, in a dark 6-by-9-foot cell; being deliberately exposed to extreme cold, and denied basic necessities like a toothbrush, toilet paper, adequate bedding, and medical and psychological care, an denied any contact with his family. He further claims to be denied access to any books, newspapers, radio, television or religious material except for the Koran (which he says was placed on the floor, with other items heaped atop it), and says that threats have been made against his family.

-On August 10, we learned that the US government has been seizing foreign citizens who simply change planes at airports in the United States -- detaining them for days without charges, depriving them of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denying basic necessities like food. One naturalized Canadian citizen alleges that he was grabbed at JFK Airport, held in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn detention center and then shipped off to his native Syria to be interrogated under torture because officials suspected that he was a member of Al Qaeda. Since then, Syrian and Canadian officials have said that the man had no terrorist connections, but US officials steadfastly maintain otherwise. According to the New York Times, they are seeking dismissal of his lawsuit, in part through the rare assertion of a "state secrets" privilege.

Personally, I have twice been pulled into an interrogation room after coming off foreign flights. The first time, the officers involved released me soon after, but declined to explain why I had been flagged. The second time, one confessed that my name was ‘similar’ to that of someone on a watch list (“Sheikh Ras al-Bakr”?) – this despite a unique passport number and a history of decidedly nonjihadist overseas travel. Can I – or any of us – learn more about what is going on?

No, we can’t. No administration in history has come close to the Bush White House in its zeal to block the routine release of information, and to stamp “classified” on pieces of paper – millions upon millions. It’s worth noting that this policy went into effect long before 9/11 – indeed, within days of Bush taking office in early 2001.

One has to wonder when a hero will emerge from among our elected officials to loudly take up the cudgel for freedom and liberty – the protection of which is presumably the purpose for which we all fight. When will someone (ideally from the party in power) boldly begin demanding answers about how the growing police state is substantively protecting our ‘national security’ – and insist that the government be forced to publicly define that vague term with much, much greater specificity?

Posted at 09:26 PM | email this post to a friend | permalink | comments
author bio

Your friend's email address:

Your email address:

Message (optional):


With all due respect, this is irrelevant. Don't you realize that a woman is crushed because her son was killed?

Show some respect. If you can't take advantage of this womans grief to serve your political agenda perhaps you ought to just sit this one out for a bit.

Think it over.

Posted by: ventana at August 11, 2005 10:25 PM

Congrats on being published here today, already rec'd your blog in my mail. Quelle surprise to see you here. Potent as ever of course, thanks for all those who can't get to read your powerful blogs that voice their concerns. Bravo mon ami! Blogged today myself. Click on my name below to visit. namasté

Posted by: neil e mac at August 11, 2005 11:27 PM

Post a comment

Thank you for commenting on The Huffington Post. We read each comment when it is submitted, so there may be a delay before your comment appears.

Remember Me?

Keep me posted with information about

Huff Post values your privacy. The information you submit is subject to our Privacy Policy.


Home The Blog Featured Posts The News Wire Blog Archives News Archives RSS/XML



AOL BlogZone A Socialite's Life Accommodatingly Ace of Spades HQ ACSBlog Adam Curry's Weblog AdFreak Altercation Althouse AmericaBlog American Street Andrea Harner Andrew Sullivan ArmsControlWonk Arthur Silber BAGnewsNotes Balkinization Balloon Juice Bartcop Bedazzled Belmont Club Best of the Web Today Beyond the Beyond Blog of Blogs Blogdex Bloggermann Blogometer Blogs for Bush Body and Soul BoiFromTroy Boing Boing Brad Blog Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal Breakfast at Tiffany's Bull Moose BuzzFlash BuzzMachine CapitolBuzz Captain's Quarters Carl Pope Cathy Seipp Chelsea Peretti Chris Mooney CJR Daily Blog Report ConyersBlog Cool Hunting Corante CounterColumn CrawfordsList Creative Commons Crooked Timber Cursor Daily Howler DailyKos D'Alliance Dan Gillmor Daou Report Dave Barry David Corn David Frum DC Media Girl Defamer Deltoid Democracy Arsenal Democratic Underground Democratic Vista Design Observer Donkey Rising Drawn! Eduwonk Engadget Eschaton Eyebeam ReBlog Ezra Klein Fafblog! Findory First Draft FishBowlDC FishbowlLA FishbowlNY Flickr Blog Fresh Politics GaraLog Gawker Get Your War On Gizmodo Gothamist Gridskipper: The Urban Travel Guide Hack A Day Head Butler History Unfolding Hit and Run Hugh Hewitt Hullabaloo Informed Comment Inside Cable News Instapundit intentBlog James Wolcott Jerry Brown Jim Gilliam Joel Makower: Two Steps Forward Joi Ito's Web Josh Rubin Joshua Bearman Kausfiles Kumbaya, Dammit. Kuro5hin LA Observed LA.comfidential Larry Kudlow LawMeme Left2Right Lessig Blog LiberalOasis Little Green Footballs Low Culture MAKE: Blog Marc Cooper Marc's Voice Mark Cuban Mark Kleiman Matthew Yglesias Max Blumenthal MaxSpeak Media Matters Megnut MemeFirst Memeorandum Metafilter Micah L. Sifry Michael Berube Online MoJo Blog Moonbat Central Morph MyDD Mystery Pollster News Hounds Nick Denton Noam Scheiber Normblog Obsidian Wings Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite To Stupid OpinionJournal OpTruth Blog Orcinus Outside the Beltway OxBlog Pandagon Patrick Ruffini Peek Personal Democracy Forum Plastic Political Animal Popgadget PowerLine Blog PressThink Query Letters I love Ragged Thots Robert Greenwald Rock the Vote Blog Roger Ailes Roger L. Simon Romenesko Rosie O'Donnell Rude Pundit RuminateThis RuPaul Red Hot SCOTUS Blog Shots In The Dark Sifry's Alerts Sirotablog Slashdot South Knox Bubba Stay Free Magazine Stephen Elliot Steve Gilliard's News Blog Swami Uptown Swing State Project Taegan Goddard's Political Wire Talking Points Memo TalkLeft TAPPED The Becker-Posner Blog The Bleat The Blogging of the President The Carpetbagger Report The Corner The Cunning Realist The Decembrist The Jason Calacanis Weblog The Left Coaster The Mobile Music Blog The Moderate Voice The Mudville Gazette The Nation: Editor's Cut The Online Beat The Political Rant The Rittenhouse Review The Talent Show The Volokh Conspiracy The Washington Note The Feature Thrillist Think Progress This Modern World Tim Blair Tom Watson TPMCafe TVNewser UN Dispatch Unfogged Vodkapundit War and Piece War Room Warblogging We Make Money Not Art WFMU's Beware of the Blog Whatever What's Happening at CNN Whiskey Bar Winds of Change Wizbang Wonkette Workbench