op-ed:Welcome To The New America, Police State

The United States of America was founded on freedoms and rights. Freedoms of speech and religion, the right to pursue happiness. The right to privacy in your own home. Somewhere along the lines in the past decade something has gone terribly wrong.

The Merriam-Webster definition of a police state is as follows: a political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures.

The Urban Dictionary says it is a country where the police watch what you do and try to control your life. Where there’s cameras in town centres and on public transport. Where you can be arrested because of something you said to a friend about the leaders of your country. Where police stop and search people for no reason. Where you can be detained without charge or trial. Where the state plants bugs with impunity. Where protesters have to get police permits, and where police regularly attack protesters.

It has been revealed that the United States government issued a subpoena to Amazon.com to obtain the identities of customers who brought their books from the site. It’s not the first time the citizens of the U.S. have faced this kind of personal invasion by the government. The Patriot Act of 2001 allows for the government and FBI to gain access to business records, medical records, educational records and library records, including stored electronic data and communications.

The Amazon deal was blocked by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker.

“Well-founded or not, rumors of an Orwellian federal criminal investigation into the reading habits of Amazon’s customers could frighten countless potential customers into canceling planned online book purchases.”

The United States government is already listening in on its citizens calls, both domestic and international. Your emails can be tapped. There is no longer the right of citizens to have a search warrant before Big Brother comes knocking because they don’t bother to knock, they sneak in the back door while you chat on the phone. But it’s a secret so don’t tell anyone because they may act up about it.

Speaking of acting up if you don’t have a [url=http://media.www.michigandaily.com/media/storage/paper851/news/2002/10/02/Opinion/A.Permit.We.Protest-1412692.shtml t=_blank]permit then you could be in trouble. The issuing of permits to protest took place quickly after 9/11. Getting arrested if you protest the war in Iraq should seem insane to Americans but it happens all the time. Speakers are hauled off before they can let their opinions heard. War Vets are handcuffed and hauled away for protesting the new war on Veteran’s Day.

What is most frightening about these acts? The American people have been silent. They haven’t caused an uproar as their freedoms flee into the government’s hands.

We have a government who is the only one in the world that has dropped nuclear weapons on civilians going after oil rich countries because they have an idea that there are weapons of mass destruction. Or was that claim simply used to make it seem okay to invade a country after the U.N. said no? Iran is the next target.

“The President cannot eliminate constitutional protections with the stroke of a pen by proclaiming a civilian, even a criminal civilian, an enemy combatant subject to indefinite military detention,” the panel found.

Living in a police state means that the police don’t have to have a reason to arrest you. Wait a minute, that hasn’t happened in the United States to their citizens! Wrong. Jose Padilla was held for months without charges before his trial. Yaser Esam Hamdi was held for three years without charges. Maher Hawash is another.

These little pieces of the puzzle of freedom that go missing may not seem like much in the beginning. But as each piece is removed it stands the chance of being lost. As each piece is lost the overall puzzle changes its image.

When freedoms slowly and quietly are removed the landscape of a country changes. When you relook at the definitions again for police state do you see a new puzzle starting to become complete?

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