In this brave new world, free speech under the Bill of Rights effectively has been declared a threat to government controls for maintaining "stability".
And the Patriot Act has become the premiere weapon to attack whistleblowers and dissidents who challenge the comfort of political leaders hiding inconvenient truths from the public. It's all the rage on Capitol Hill, as leaders strive to score TV ratings, while demagoguing their "outstanding leadership performance" on everything from national security to environmental policy.
Truth has Become Treason
But wait---Congress promised the Patriot Act only targets foreigners, who come to our shores seeking to destroy our way of life through violent, criminal acts. Good, law abiding Americans have nothing to fear. The Patriot Act restricts its powers of "roving wiretaps" and warrantless searches to international communications among "bad guys." Congress has sworn, with hand on heart, it's only purpose is breaking down terrorist cells and hunting out "lone wolf" mad men.
And you believed them? You trust the government. Well, that was your first mistake. With regards to the Patriot Act, it's a fatal one. Would the government lie to you? They already have.
The Patriot Act reaches far beyond terrorism prevention. In my home state of Maryland, State Police invoked the Patriot Act to run surveillance on the Chesapeake Climate Action Network dedicated to wind power, recycling and protection of the Chesapeake Bay.
They infiltrated the DC Anti War Network, suggesting the group might be a front for "white supremacists," and Amnesty International, claiming to investigate "civil rights abuses." Opponents of the death penalty also got targeted (in case they got violent).
Truth tellers who give Americans too much insight are vulnerable to an arsenal of judicial weapons typical of China or Mynamar. In the Patriot Act, the government has created a powerful tool to hunt out free thinking on the left or right. Anyone who opposes government policy is at risk.
How do I know this? Because I was the second non-Arab American ever indicted on the Patriot Act. My arrest defied all expectations about the law. I was no terrorist plotting to explode the Washington Monument.
Quite the opposite, I had worked in anti-terrorism for almost a decade, covering Iraq and Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Malaysia at the United Nations.
At the instruction of my CIA handler, I had delivered advance warnings about the 9/11 attack to the private staff of Attorney General John Ashcroft and the Office of Counter-Terrorism in August, 2001.
FBI wiretaps prove that I carried details of a comprehensive peace framework with Iraq up and down the hallowed corridors of Capitol Hill for months before the invasion, arguing that War was totally unnecessary.
I delivered those papers to Democrats and Republicans alike; to my own second cousin, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card; and to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who lived next door to my CIA handler. Gratis of the Patriot Act, we had the manila envelope and my hand written notes to Secretary Powell, dated a week before his infamous speech at the United Nations. My papers argued that no WMDs would be found inside Iraq, and that the peace framework could achieve all U.S. objectives without firing a shot.
In short, I was an Asset who loudly opposed War with Iraq, and made every effort to correct mistaken assumptions on Capitol Hill.
Then I did the unthinkable. I phoned the offices of Senator Trent Lott and Senator John McCain, requesting to testify before a brand new, blue ribbon Commission investigating Pre-War Intelligence. Proud and confident of my efforts, I had no idea Congress was planning to blame "bad intelligence" for the unpopular War.
Over night I became Public Enemy Number One on Capitol Hill.
Thirty days later I awoke to hear FBI agents pounding on my door. My Patriot Act nightmare lasted 5 years.
Four years after my arrest, the Court granted me one morning of evidentiary testimony by two supremely credible witnesses. Parke Godfrey verified my 9/11 warnings under oath. Otherwise, I never got my day in Court.
The Patriot Act's Arsenal to Stop Free Speech
Progressive or conservative, if you care about America's traditions of freedom, you should be angry about this law.
First come the warrantless searches and FBI tracking surveillance. My work in anti-terrorism gave me no protection. I got my first of two warrantless searches after meeting an undercover FBI agent to discuss my support for free elections in Iraq and my opposition to torture and sexual humiliation of Iraqi detainees. (Sorry guys, body wires don't lie.)
If truth tellers don't get the message, the Justice Department ratchets up the pressure. Defendants face secret charges, secret evidence and secret grand jury testimony.
Throughout five years of indictment, my attorneys and I never got to read a single FBI interview or grand jury statement. Under the Patriot Act, the whistleblower/defendant has no right to know who has accused him or her of what criminal activities, or the dates of the alleged offenses, or what laws got broken.
Of course, I was able to piece together my activities. I knew that "sometime in October, 2001" an Iraqi diplomat gave me the English translation of a book on depleted uranium, which showed how cancer rates and birth defects had spiked in Iraqi children.
And I was quite certain that on October 14, 1999, an Iraqi diplomat asked me how to channel major financial contributions to the Presidential Campaign of George Bush and Dick Cheney. I reported my conversation immediately to my Defense Intelligence handler, Paul Hoven. The Justice Department got this date from me.
It's unlikely the grand jury knew this, since the Justice Department has the prerogative to keep a grand jury in the dark. Under Patriot, a grand jury can be compelled to consider indictments carrying 10 years or more in prison, without the right to review evidence, or otherwise determine whether an individual's actions rise to the level of criminal activity at all.
That's just the beginning. Once Congress scores an indictment against a political opponent, the Justice Department can force Defense attorneys to undergo protracted security clearances, while the whistleblower cum defendant waits in prison--- usually in solitary confinement or the SHU. After the security clearance, prosecutors have an ironclad right to bar attorneys from communicating communications from the prosecution to the defendant, on threat of disbarment, stiff fines or prison sentence.
Scared yet? Once you get to trial, the situation gets worse.
The Patriot Act declares that a prosecutor has no obligation at all to show evidence of criminal activity to a jury. The Defense can be denied the right to argue a rebuttal to those secret charges, because it requires speculation that might mislead the jury--or might expose issues that the government deems secret.
After all that a Judge can instruct a jury that the prosecution regards the secret evidence as sufficient to merit conviction on the secret charges. The jury can be barred from considering the lack of evidence in weighing whether to convict.
Think I'm exaggerating? You would be wrong. That's what happened to me. All of it--with one major glitch. All of this presumes the whistleblower's lucky enough to get a trial. I was denied mine, though I fought vigorously for my rights.
Instead, citing the Patriot Act, I got thrown in prison on a Texas military base without so much as a hearing--and threatened with indefinite detention and forcible drugging, to boot.
Americans are not nearly afraid enough.
Neither is Congress. As of this week, members of Congress should be very afraid. Anyone who votes to extend the Patriot Act should expect to pack their bags in 2012.
They will be targeted for defeat. Above all, the words "freedom" and "Constitution" should never appear in their campaign propaganda without facing extreme public scorn -- never, ever again.
*** Susan Lindauer is the author of Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq, which reveals details of her CIA team's 9/11 warnings and a comprehensive peace option with Iraq. She was imprisoned on Carswell Air Force Base for a year without a trial, while the U.S. government reinvented Pre-War Intelligence and the success of anti-terrorism policy, which had been the focus of her work.