"War on Terror" Morphs into Attack on Dissent

I read a newspaper article (L.A. Times, June 18, 2009) two weeks ago that reminded me of a recent comment to this blog.

This person wrote: “I am very grateful for the Rosenberg Fund. I visit the family of an innocent man, incarcerated for being a Muslim.* The Rosenberg Fund pays for their [children’s] school tuition. In the case of my friend, their father's sentence is 15 years. He will only miss their childhoods. But, fifteen years is a long time when you are only 3.” (*The RFC provided a grant to this family after determining that the man in question was targeted for his anti-war activities.)

I was very disturbed to learn that this activist has been transferred to what the Federal Bureau of Prisons calls a “Communication Management Unit,” more colorfully labeled by some inmates “Little Guantanamo.” This transfer also put a special burden on this large family and the RFC’s prison visit travel program (Attica Fund) because this new location is far away from where the family lives.

The article I read addressed these new control units, the lawsuits they are generating and the inmates who populate them. It reported on a suit filed by the ACLU on behalf of a similarly situated Muslim alleging that such transfers violate prisoners’ rights by transferring them with neither hearings, nor opportunity to contest the transfer. It also questions the legality of the units themselves.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is about to file a similar suit. The article notes, “Inmates in the unit get one 15-minute phone call a week and two two-hour visits a month.” It goes on to quote someone I know quite well: “‘These are political prisons,’ says Rachel Meeropol, a staff attorney at the [CCR]. ‘These people are being targeted to limit their ability to communicate with the outside world, and to limit their ability to be political people.’”

The article concluded by discussing the case of Daniel McGowan, who recently was transferred to a similar unit. Although not an RFC beneficiary, Daniel was swept up in a wave of “Green Scare” cases that have generated a number of new RFC beneficiary families. He was convicted of burning a lumber company’s empty office and given a “terrorist enhancement” to his seven-year sentence because of the political nature of his crime. Daniel believes he was transferred because he remained politically active in prison and published a blog. Lauren Regan, his attorney, with whom I toured the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2007, noted that the only difference between Daniel and other Green Scare defendants who were not transferred was “the outreach that he was doing and the voice that he had behind bars.”

This convergence of circumstances between religious and racially profiled Muslim anti-war activists, and those fighting the corporate destruction of our environment, is one of the clearest demonstrations I’ve seen of using draconian post-9/11 laws and procedures to expand the “war on terror” into a more general attack on dissenting movements throughout the nation.

And the fact that this is taking place months after Bush left office provides a stark warning for all those who do not question the human rights and civil liberties intentions of the Obama administration.

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Thank you for drawing these connections and bringing some additional attention to these abuses that are happening domestically with little notice or outcry by the public.

Rachel Meeropol, an attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights (and Robert Meeropol's daughter), has written a related article published on AlterNet, July 15, 2009:

"The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act: The Most Dangerous Domestic Terror Law You've Never Heard Of"- http://www.alternet.org/rights/141328/the_animal_enterprise_terrorism_act:_the_most_dangerous_domestic_terror_law_you%27ve_never_heard_of/

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