College of Political Knowledge
Subject: American History
The Patriot Act….now there is a term that will send most normal Americans into a frenzy…….to some it is a violation of the trust that we gave to our government and to others it is a useful tool in fighting global terrorism…….which are you? (no need to answer…it was rhetorical).
But for those that know the term but little else let me refresh the memories of my readers…….The Patriot Act……
The USA PATRIOT Act (officially the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate
Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) was quickly developed as anti-terrorism legislation in response to the September 11 2001 attacks. The large and complex law received little Congressional oversight and debate and was signed into law by President Bush Oct. 26 2001.
PATRIOT gives sweeping search and surveillance to domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies and eliminates checks and balances that previously gave courts the opportunity to ensure that those powers were not abused. PATRIOT and follow-up legislation now in development threaten the basic rights of millions of Americans.
Do I have your attention now?
But before that act came COINTELPRO………now there is a blast from the past……I know what the Hell is that?
COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert and illegal projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. The FBI used covert operations from its inception; however the formal COINTELPRO operations took place between 1956 and 1971. The FBI motivation at the time was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.” Targets included groups suspected of being subversive, such as communist and socialist organizations; people suspected of building a “coalition of militant black nationalist groups” ranging from the Black Panther Party and Republic of New Africa, to “those in the non-violent civil rights movement,” such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), and other civil rights groups; “White Hate Groups” including the Ku Klux Klan and National States Rights Party; a broad range of organizations lumped together under the title “New Left” groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Weathermen, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, and even individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; and a special project seeking to undermine nationalist groups such as those “Seeking Independence for Puerto Rico.” The directives governing COINTELPRO were issued by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered FBI agents to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” the activities of these movements and their leaders.
Smirk if you will…those were NOT the first attempts by the government on control of the population…….ever hear of the Alien and Sedition Acts?
No protesting the government? No immigrants allowed in? No freedom of the press. Lawmakers jailed? Is this the story of the Soviet Union during the Cold War?
No. It describes the United States in 1798 after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
The strong steps that Adams took in response to the French foreign threat also included severe repression of domestic protest. A series of laws known collectively as the Alien and Sedition Acts were passed by the Federalist Congress in 1798 and signed into law by President Adams. These laws included new powers to deport foreigners as well as making it harder for new immigrants to vote. Previously a new immigrant would have to reside in the United States for five years before becoming eligible to vote, but a new law raised this to 14 years.
Clearly, the Federalists saw foreigners as a deep threat to American security. As one Federalist in Congress declared, there was no need to “invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, nor the turbulent and disorderly of all the world, to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquillity.” Not coincidentally, non-English ethnic groups had been among the core supporters of the Democratic-Republicans in 1796.
The most controversial of the new laws permitting strong government control over individual actions was the Sedition Act. In essence, this Act prohibited public opposition to the government. Fines and imprisonment could be used against those who “write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing” against the government.
Under the terms of this law over 20 Republican newspaper editors were arrested and some were imprisoned. The most dramatic victim of the law was Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont. His letter that criticized President Adams’ “unbounded thirst for ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and self avarice” caused him to be imprisoned. While Federalists sent Lyon to prison for his opinions, his constituents reelected him to Congress even from his jail cell.
The Sedition Act clearly violated individual protections under the first amendment of the Constitution; however, the practice of “judicial review,” whereby the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of laws was not yet well developed. Furthermore, the justices were all strong Federalists. As a result, Madison and Jefferson directed their opposition to the new laws to state legislatures. The Virginia and Kentucky legislatures passed resolutions declaring the federal laws invalid within their states. The bold challenge to the federal government offered by this strong states’ rights position seemed to point toward imminent armed conflict within the United States.
Enormous changes had occurred in the explosive decade of the 1790s. Federalists in government now viewed the persistence of their party as the equivalent of the survival of the republic. This led them to enact and enforce harsh laws. Madison, who had been the chief architect of a strong central government in the Constitution, now was wary of national authority. He actually helped the Kentucky legislature to reject federal law. By placing states rights above those of the federal government, Kentucky and Virginia had established a precedent that would be used to justify the secession of southern states in the Civil War.
(thanx to ushistory.org for the breakdown above)
There you have it….our very first Patriot Act……..
The violation of anyone’s civil rights is NEVER in the interest of the nation….no matter how they try to spin it….it is just the government taking over control of our lives…..some have been warning of this for a long time…..just few were listening.