26 okt. 2008

US states treat political activists as terrorists to stifle protest

Farther to the north, another state is experimenting with a far more audacious assault on democracy. In 2002, Minnesota liberalised the legal definition of terrorism, according to the Associated Press, to include actions "intended to interfere with the conduct of government or the right of lawful assembly." Essentially, it's Minnesota's version of the US Patriot Act.

There's an old saying that circulates in more politically radical circles: "Protest is patriotism." In this post-September 11 world of paranoia and political expediency, however, protest, an essence of democracy, has morphed into something perfectly Orwellian: terrorism.

Two recent events demonstrate how easy it is for the government to dilute words and their meanings to close off opposition and dissent. Last week, the Maryland state police disclosed that 53 nonviolent anti-war and anti-death penalty activists were tracked for 14 months in 2005 and 2006 under the state's terrorism surveillance programme, and that their names had been added to the state's and the National Security Agency's database.

Md. Police Put Activists' Names On Terror Lists (October 8, 2008 washingtonpost)
The Maryland State Police classified 53 nonviolent activists as terrorists and entered their names and personal information into state and federal databases that track terrorism suspects, the state police chief acknowledged yesterday.
Police Superintendent Terrence B. Sheridan revealed at a legislative hearing that the surveillance operation, which targeted opponents of the death penalty and the Iraq war, was far more extensive than was known when its existence was disclosed in July.

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