The price of freedom is eternal vigilance--not just against foreign influence, but also against our own government agents. Our government has spent our money going after a man, Sayed Mousavi, who wanted to promote cell phones in Iran. He also did not report a portion of his taxable income (for which he should be punished financially). The government used a law called the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to convict him. Yet, no one believes this man is a terrorist except perhaps the American government and their lawyers. The most distressing detail is that our government removed Seyed Mahmood Mousavi's American citizenship by claiming he lied on his citizenship application. They apparently used mis-translated documents as evidence. More information after the jump:
To those would say America is a place where all citizens can breathe free post-Obama, the government's prosecution of Mr. Mousavi is a harsh lesson that vigilance must remain high. Even if Obama issues executive orders nullifying enforcement of the Patriot Act, such as canceling Executive Order 13224, more laws exist to harass citizens and non-citizens in America. Here is more about Mr. Mousavi's life:
Laura Donohue, a Stanford fellow, once said that counterterrorism activity increases "executive power both in absolute and real terms. This changes the balance of power at a federal level between the branches of government. It changes the relationship between the citizens and the state." Executive Order 13224, mentioned earlier, gave the White House and the Treasury the power to freeze assets of those they suspect of being terrorists and those they suspect have associations with terrorists. In other words, citizens "can have their assets frozen without being found guilty in any court of law for actually having any association with terrorism itself." "Between October 2001 and April 2005, 743 people and 947 organizations had their assets frozen underneath this order. 98% of the people, and 96% of the organizations, appeared to be Arab or Muslim." (Laura Donohue, Commonwealth Club speech, 9/11/08, page 20-21 of the November 2008 The Commonwealth magazine).
Unfortunately, Obama is not proof that this country has progressed past its religious intolerance. Obama is Christian. Bobby Jindal, another political up-and-comer, converted to Catholicism. If you are not some form of Christian in America, and you have innocuous ties to Middle Eastern countries, the government is apparently willing to charge you with a crime. I realize Mr. Mousavi may have violated a trade embargo, and if he knowingly violated the law, jail-time is warranted. What terrifies me is our government, rather than prosecute him specifically for his violation of the trade embargo, actively expanded its prosecution to remove his citizenship--despite no evidence that he was a terrorist or danger to his community.
Also, I've never heard of International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). It seems that so many laws have been passed, the government can classify any transaction with a Middle Eastern country or charity as illegal. Overly broad laws effectively intrude on personal associations and the right of peaceful assembly guaranteed under the First Amendment. For example, if I believe that my association with others can be used against me in the future, I may alter my behavior and self-banish myself from others who share minority religious or political views. Thus, the Patriot Act and other laws similar to it--which apparently do not require any malicious intent or actual damages--have the effect of violating the First Amendment by their mere existence.
If you are interested in more information on domestic surveillance laws and activity, get the November 2008 edition of The Commonwealth magazine. One section of Donahue's speech is titled, "Better than the Stasi," referring to domestic law enforcement activities.