So, you're coming home from work, when suddenly armed government
agents show up in the parking lot and take you away to prison. They also send a team,
armed with assault rifles and bulletproof vests, into your home to confront your wife and kids. You don't know what you possibly could have done, and nobody will tell you anything. You stay in prison. Weeks go by.
The government never charges you with any crime, but it refuses to release any
information about your case. You know this kind of thing happens all over the
country: people can be held in solitary confinement for a year or more, for
any cause, or for no cause at all. Maybe their papers weren't perfectly in
order. Or maybe, like you, they're just "witnesses"--witnesses to some
unspecified event, witnesses in a trial that will never occur.
Hey, what country are you in? Syria? North Korea? Ha ha! NO! You're an
American, like Mike Hawash.
Mike Hawash is a programmer, an Intel employee. He lives with his wife and kids in Oregon. He has been a U.S. citizen for 14 years, but he was born in Palestine and raised in Kuwait. He was detained on March 20th and has been held in a high-security prison since then, despite the fact that there are NO charges against him and he is not accused of any wrongdoing. It's not clear whether the government has even questioned him; apparently, in similar cases, Arab Americans have been imprisoned for months and finally released without ever being questioned.
This is part of Ashcroft's systematic campaign of "preventive" detention. Having flushed the whole concept of "innocent until proven guilty," Ashcroft has set INS and FBI agents to scouring the phone book and investigating anybody with an Arab-sounding name. If agents can find any infraction, no matter how minor, they use that to jail their victims. In the case of model citizens like Mike Hawash, the government calls them "material witnesses" and locks them up anyway. Ashcroft's sadistic innovations allow him to effectively create a concentration camp for Arab immigrants, except that he doesn't need an actual camp. Regular jails serve just fine.
In Steven Brill's book After: How America Confronted the September 12 Era, he recounts the story of Syed Jaffri, a 34-year-old Pakistani who was taken in by the FBI and INS during the first wave of detentions:
He claims that one INS guard told him, "If the FBI arrested you, that's good enough for me," whereupon his face was slammed so hard against a wall that his teeth were jarred loose. It was the first day of six months of solitary confinement in that cell. The lights were on all the time. He was never told what time it was, so he never knew when to pray. For the first two months, he claims, he was given two square pieces of toilet paper a day, and denied soap, a toothbrush or toothpaste, and all reading materials.
Jaffri's detention was by now becoming part of a pattern, though it was invisible because Attorney General John Ashcroft had taken such extraordinary measures, including keeping hearings for people like Jaffri secret, to make sure it all happened out of public sight.
The perspective [Ashcroft's group] started with was simple. The 19 men who had hijacked the planes could not be the only ones who were living in America quietly waiting to attack. There could be hundreds, even thousands, of others, and their job was to find them. The obvious target was young Muslim men, plain and simple. But they had no informants, really no contact at all, in those communities. So they had to use what they had to check as many of the target population as they could, as fast as they could. Again, the first goal wasn't to prosecute them but to prevent them, which meant that violating the kinds of rules pertaining to searches and interrogation that would get evidence thrown out of court wasn't that important.
It's becoming clear that Ashcroft's campaign of persecution, begun in 2001, never ended. After two years, the government is still imprisoning as many Arab men as possible, regardless of whether any evidence against them exists. They can be held without any charges because of the diabolical way Ashcroft has twisted the laws. Here, this is from After again:
The government can hold someone as a material witness if prosecutors claim to a judge that the person might have vital evidence in an investigation but might flee before being put before a jury or a grand jury to testify. The new twist Ashcroft's team now decided to add was that they would control when, if ever, that person might be asked to testify--meaning they would seek to hold the person indefinitely so as to coerce him to talk.
Chertoff reasoned that while they were being held they would be discouraged from calling lawyers, and could be questioned without lawyers present because they were not being charged with any crime. The advantage of using this newly expanded material witness classification was that the feds didn't have to prove anything criminal about the person being held, but only that he might have material information about an investigation. And as a practical matter it, too, could be done in secret because these material witnesses were meant to testify before grand juries, and all grand jury proceedings, including any hearings involving the status of a witness, are, by law, required to be secret. With a grand jury in New York empaneled for the foreseeable future to investigate the attacks and any plots for new attacks, these material witnesses could be held indefinitely, Ashcroft and his small team reasoned.
And so, at the whim of the Justice Department, innocent Americans like Mike Hawash are ripped from their families and thrown in prison for months, or a year.
This is wrong. It's fucking evil, and it's a violation of everything that America is supposed to be about. We say "liberty and justice for all," not "...for white people," and not "...except when liberty and justice are incovenient for the government."
So what should we do? We should storm Washington with pitchforks and baseball bats, is what we should do. We should overthrow our oppressors and let the political prisoners out of jail. We should string Ashcroft from the tallest tree. We should hold fair elections and get a democratically elected government, for a change.
While we're working on all that, we should also donate to Mike Hawash's legal fund, and write letters to Congress demanding the release of Hawash and everybody like him. Here's a sample letter:
Dear repulsive congresscreature,
John Ashcroft is a vile Nazi motherfucker on a mission from Satan, a religious
fanatic who despises America's diversity and traditions of individual liberty.
He hates us because we're free. He wants control over what we say and what we
know, and he thinks nothing of torturing whole families or "disappearing"
innocent citizens in order to further his campaign of terror and hatred.
I realize that you are probably already complicit in these atrocities, and are
no doubt even at this very moment pissing yourself with eagerness to prove
your loyalty to our dark overlords. But I am writing in the sincere hope that
you can find a spare minute to wipe the devil's jism from your chin and
FUCKING DO SOMETHING about all these innocent people languishing in gulags.
Remember, though, that your letter will be more effective if it's in your own words!
If you live in Oregon, there's going to be a rally for Mike Hawash on April
29th. If you don't live in Oregon, you could always get some people together
and have a rally anyway. Or just grab the next person you see by the ears and shake them until they
realize how unbelievably bad this is.