The recent arrest of Gen. İlker Başbuğ, the former Chief of General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), has fueled concerns about Turkish anti-terror laws. Almost every day, American mainstream media runs stories and articles that question Turkey’s new counterterrorism laws.
But what is the situation in the US? American mainstream media have not focused on the US’s own anti-terror laws, which have restricted the liberties and constitutional rights of American citizens. It is obvious that after 9/11 American freedoms suffered many heartbreaking defeats during the George W. Bush era. If one wants to objectively analyze Bush’s actions and policies during his administration, the truth is obviously very clear: President Bush systematically put in place laws and policies that harmed the Americans constitutionally protected liberties.
Let’s have a quick look at examples of the freedoms that President Bush expunged, as shared on www.scn.org/ccapa/pa-meta.html.
Freedom of association: The government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror investigations.
Freedom of information: The government closed once-public immigration hearings, secretly detained hundreds of people without charge and encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records questions.
Freedom of speech: The government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation. Right to legal representation: The government may monitor federal prison conversations between attorneys and clients and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.
Freedom from unreasonable searches: The government may search and seize Americans’ papers and effects without probable cause to assist a terror investigation. Right to a speedy and public trial: The government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial. Right to liberty: Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them. “Enemy combatants” have been held incommunicado and refused attorneys.
Even though the motto President Barack Obama employed during his election campaign was “Change,” many things actually remain unchanged. Last May, President Obama signed the Patriot Act extension. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Protect IP Act, which allowed the government to block websites and search engines accused of “copyright infringement.”
Continuation of Bush policies
President Obama signed the extension of parts of the USA Patriot Act, which is actually the continuation of Bush policies. It allows for wiretapping “authorized for a person rather than a communications line or device; court-ordered searches of business records; and surveillance of non-American ‘lone wolf’ suspects without confirmed ties to terrorist groups.” These parts are a small portion of the USA Patriot Act, which violates privacy rights in America. Many believe that the Patriot Act is anti-democratic and against America’s founding principles; whereas many Republicans see it as necessary for security reasons. President Obama described the laws as “an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.”
But Senator Mark Udall did not agree with the president, saying, “If we cannot limit investigations to terrorism or other nefarious activities, where do they end?”
But on Jan. 2 of this year something even worse happened. After months of debate, President Obama made the announcement that he would sign the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012, which greatly expands the power of the government to fight the War on Terror, allowing the military to detain US citizens abroad as well as foreigners without a trial.
Particularly, sub-sections of the bill 1021 and 1022, which deal with detention of persons, including Americans, have triggered controversy about the constitutionally protected liberties of Americans. The detention provisions of the Act have been highly criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and some American politicians who are concerned about the detention of US citizens on American soil.
Ron Paul, a presidential candidate and a congressman from Texas who has been vocal about his reservations about the bill, said on Wednesday that the bill “provides for the possibility of the US military acting as a kind of police force on US soil, apprehending terror suspects, including Americans, and whisking them off to an undisclosed location indefinitely.”
But many believe that the main reason of this bill, which includes the detention of US citizens, is the fact that some American citizens are linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Faisal Shahzad, who was arrested in connection with the failed car-bomb attack in Times Square in New York on May 2010, was a US citizen.
Anwar Al-Awlaki was another American citizen who became a prominent figure with al-Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, the network’s most active branch. He was killed by Joint Special Operations Command, under the direction of the CIA on late Sept. 2011. But some also believe that this bill can impact American protesters and demonstrators as well.
“The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it,” Obama said in a statement. “I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.” It looks like the American public will have a lot of vociferous debates on that matter!
*Aydoğan Vatandaş is an investigative reporter based in New York.