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Sacramento Area Peace Action opposes the United States government’s aggressive intimidation program to silence political dissent. Under the banner of keeping America safe from “terrorists,” the more likely result may be to make Americans afraid of our own government — afraid to participate in the political process which is the very foundation of a democracy.
The FBI has conducted morning raids on the homes of political activists. These and other politically active persons have been served with subpoenas to appear before grand juries. Questions are not being asked about crimes. The interest is in “associational” information, i.e., with whom do the activists associate.
The government encourages not only state and local law enforcement agencies, but also the general public, to report “suspicious” behavior. Although “suspicious” has included such groups as historically black colleges, human rights groups and bike lane advocates, the major targets of the intimidation program are Muslims and persons concerned about Palestine and/or Colombia.
The American Civil Liberties Union has already documented spying operations directed against political advocacy in 33 states.
Masses of “suspicious” and personal information are being collected and stored in databases called things like the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, Guardian, eGuardian, Domain Management, and the Investigative Data Warehouse. Whole communities are being profiled by characteristics such as racial and ethnic demographics, and anybody photographing a bridge is liable to be entered into a database as a possible “terrorist.”
Besides the inherent wrong of a government spying on its citizens, and encouraging its citizens to be distrustful of one another, is the simple reality that data entry is notoriously error-ridden: GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Because data collecting is done in utmost secrecy, persons don’t have the ability to correct their data profiles.
Fear driven zealotry, it seems, is nothing new in the United States. The internment of the Japanese during World War II, and the McCarthy era and the House Un-American Activities Committee, are but two examples. We cannot change the damage done by past wrongs, but we will not be intimidated into silence by these present wrongs.
Sacramento Area Peace Action Board of Directors