October 12, 2001

RMS: What secrets does government have from U.S. citizens?

Author: JT Smith

- By Richard Stallman-

On Monday, NewsForge published my article warning about anti-terrorism
measures that can threaten our freedom. I finished the article last
week; two subsequent events related directly to what I wrote.

Firstly, Bush condemned Congress for "leaking secret information."
What was the big secret? He won't confirm, but it appears to be
neither a fact nor a plan, but a prediction: that there was a near
certainty of further terrorist attacks in case the United States began military
action.

Who was this secret being kept from? Not from the terrorists; whoever
is planning more attacks already knows this. It was being kept secret
from you and me, the American public -- and our elected representatives
were castigated for telling us what our enemies already know. This
illustrates perfectly why we must oppose further government secrecy
powers.

Please note that I am not saying that the United States should hold back from
effective measures against terrorists lest they retaliate. That is a
recipe for surrender. But how to deal with terrorists is one
question; whether our public servants should keep secret from us that
which our enemies know is another.

Secondly, last week the House of Representatives stood firm against
Attorney General John Ashcroft's proposals to abolish some basic civil
liberties. But just last night the Senate voted to accept them.
The Senate's "Uniting and Strengthening America (USA) Act" would do
all these things and more:

  • Allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens, denying them the
    chance to defend themselves in court.

  • Reduce judicial supervision of federal telephone and Internet
    surveillance.

  • Expand secret searches -- see http://www.aclu.org/congress/l100801e.html.

  • Allow officials to designate domestic groups as terrorist
    organizations and block any non-citizen who belongs to them from
    entering the United States. Membership in such an organization would become a
    deportable offense. See http://www.aclu.org/congress/l100801d.html.

  • Let the FBI seize sensitive business records about
    individuals without having to show evidence of a crime.
    See http://www.aclu.org/congress/l100801a.html.

The supporters of this bill apparently feel there is no need to *ask*
Americans to unite -- they plan to "unite us" whether we will or not.
This bill is being rushed through committee, and may reach the Senate
floor soon, so the ACLU is asking Americans to call or write their
senators ASAP to oppose the bill.

See http://www.aclu.org/action/usa107.html for more information.

Copyright 2001 Richard Stallman
Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article are permitted
in any medium provided the copyright notice and this notice are
preserved.

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