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MILNET: Changes to U.S. Civil Rights

In reaction to the massacres on 9/11/2001, some changes have occurred to U.S. civil rights.  A few are codified by regulations changed following the murders, others have been enacted by an abundance of caution.  Most of these changes have been accepted, albeit with some grumbling of the U.S. citizen.  Most agree that the cliché "better safe than sorry" is applicable.   Looking at the list below, the temporary abridgment of rights does not appear too bad, however, there are those who decry any abridgment for any reason, so MILNET cannot safely say EVERYONE agrees with our assessment.

The argument over federal, state, and city profiling and whether it constitutes a clear case of racial profiling -- the specific use of race as THE determinate factor in focusing suspicion on suspects -- will continue as long as a liberal population cannot distinguish between practical use of common sense and discrimination.  To be fair, you will see profiling in the following list, since it is clear there ARE pressures brought on by the racial and national origin of the 9/11 murderers.

One of the proposed methods for redressing personal freedoms -- mostly related to weapons or explosives searches and travel -- is a national traveler's identification card with bio-metrics.  While impinging upon free and unrestricted travel, the proponents believe the card will remove the majority of the personal impact for those with the card, thus softening the "blow" so to speak.  Other ideas are listed in a separate table below the first.

Not covered in this discussion are certain provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act passed in the week following the 9/11 attacks.  The primary result of the act allows the arrest and detention of non-citizens. One should note there is no provision in the U.S. constitution for the rights of non citizens.  U.S. Federal Law, specifically the provisions of the Immigration, Naturalization and Selection statutes do set out regulations -- which are subject to change by the President under executive order and of course the U.S. Congress may modify at any time without impinging upon U.S. constitutional rights.

Other U.S. Patriot Act provisions are the sneak peak and attorney client communication provisions which are covered in the table below:

Current Semi-Abridgment of Civil Rights

Abridged Civil Right Details
Personal privacy of one's person While traveling, most of us had the expectation that our person was not subject to search. Indeed since hijackings became a popular threat in the 1960s, metal detectors and newer up close and personal search devices have been accepted.  Today, a "check if suspicious" mode caused by a metal detector bleat has turned into random full body searches.  More delaying than intrusive, the searches cause grumbles but no real harm.  See profiling below.
Right to gather Restrictions on the ability to meet an incoming flight at a gate has been restricted by many airports which only allow ticketed passengers beyond the security check area.  This means folks must wait at some distance from the gate, and where, unfortunately, there are no provisions for waiting such as seats and monitors to show flight status.  No airline seems to have noticed this and new terminal plans do not seem to take this new feature into their designs.
Non discrimination due to 
Race, creed, nationality
Common sense has driven law enforcement and investigative agencies to look closely at Middle Eastern races or those carrying Middle Eastern travel documents with suspicion.  The result may be a larger than normal search ratio for people with Middle Eastern features or travel documents, however studies are as of yet incomplete.  The effect  is also seen in employment, as more strict background checks tend to take longer for non-citizens and those recently immigrated -- especially in critical job categories such as baggage handlers and security.  This loss in freedom has libertarians screaming, almost weekly and appears to be more important to many than personal safety. 
Right to bear arms In most states it is not illegal to transport a firearm in your personal vehicle or if transporting cargo, as a self defense weapon with certain certification by city or state governments.  However, in and around airports, a firearm in the trunk or storage area may attract attention as local Sheriff units have taken to inspecting incoming vehicles for weapons and explosives. In most cases where weapons are found in a vehicle, the weapon will be confiscated, at least temporarily.  Civil Libertarians bristle however, an overabundance of caution is usually welcomed. 
Free Access to Public Facilities Late in the twentieth century most government buildings (city, state and federal) had already adopted the use of metal detectors in order to protect government officials from criminal elements in society -- for instance courtrooms and offices.  These measures have fit naturally into anti-terrorist protections, which now also include barrier devices at entrances and in some cases restricted parking or restricted types of vehicles near high profile buildings.
Camera at teller machines, bank common areas, work areas Also found in the late 20th century, many financial institutions, schools, and even grocery stores and employee areas have been subject to video surveillance.  Recently cities have taken to full time, 24X7 coverage of certain street areas -- specifically those in high crime areas.  Cameras have also been used to capture speeders and red light violators.  Many department stores have video surveillance in dressing rooms, setup to provide grainy overhead view allowing surveillance of activity and little titillation if any for observers.
Freedom to conduct commerce Since the invention of dynamite, certain chemicals have made their way onto lists that require appropriate certification and identification to be verified before purchase. In recent years, and especially after the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, pesticides and fertilizer have increasingly become subject to more rigid "vetting" of purchasers.
Right to Privacy, unwarranted search Searches of your person, vehicle, and home have required a Judge to issue a search warrant.  For non citizens this has never been the case, however new "sneak peak" provisions of the U.S. Patriot Act provide a gray area for citizens who are associated with suspected terrorists.  This provision has alarmed libertarians and Constitutionalists alike with few if any safeguards protecting against abuse by authorities.
Privileged Communications with Council In certain conditions, specifically surrounding cases of non citizens suspected of terrorist acts, the U.S. Patriot Act allows the monitoring of lawyer-client communications in order to ensure communications are not part of further terrorist activities.  Again Civil Libertarians are extremely concerned with the possible abuse of these provisions.
Right to Trial by Jury The right to Trail by Jury has been afforded to non citizens in the past, however since 9/11, non citizens are subject to trail by Military Tribunal.  The suspect could be found tried, found guilty, sentenced to death and executed, without the benefit of trail by jury.  Again, Libertarians are concerned that, in their opinion, there are not enough safeguards against abuse, including the only right of appeal being directly to the U.S. President.


New Security Devices - Abridgments

Security Idea Rationale
National ID Card with biometrics All travelers who wish to avoid long waits at weapons/explosives search stations would give up their unrestricted travel right and carry an ID card with extremely difficult to forge biometrics information that uniquely identifies the individual.  Persons entering the U.S. on entry visas would be subject to travel via card only, and arrested and possibly deported if the card is not on their person.  This idea has many proponents and a Harris poll3 in December 2001 confirmed Americans favor such measures by 93%.
Camera above airline seat Hidden cameras on Airbus aircraft have been proposed, these aircraft are sold worldwide.  Some airlines already use video monitoring in aircraft lavatories. 
Increased cameras and surveillance on nation's streets A December 2001 Harris Poll 3 says that 68% of Americans favor this proposed measure.  See "Facial Scan technology" below.
Truck Free Zones Expanding the restriction on traffic concept, this prohibits vehicles capable of carrying very large explosive charges from proximity to key buildings or areas.  This is especially important for delivery vehicles which at times block streets and are at times left unattended, perfect for delivery of building destroying bombs.
Container Elimination Containers, 24 foot long metal boxes, are carried aboard container ships. The container is a primary cargo carrying device in today's sea and rail borne traffic.  Hundreds of thousands enter the U.S. per year.  Only 2% are inspected.  Anyone intent on importing weapons of mass destruction or simply lots of conventional explosives can address a container to a location inland from the port and intercept once the container is enroute over land.
Religious Sanctions Freedom to practice religion is a fundamental U.S. right, however when religious teachings directly propose the violent attack on the U.S. government, the religion crosses the line separating church and state. Currently political climate and PC - Political Correctness make it extremely difficult for investigators to even attempt to gather evidence of sedition.  The result is seditious activities are at an all time high.
Increased Air Marshals People are the problem, not weapons says an Israeli former director of security at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport, Raphael “Rafi” Ron.  Many in government agree, saying adding thousands of Air Marshals is a better use of anti-terrorist and homeland security dollars than any of the other programs.
Expanded Undercover Activities to Penetrate Islamic Extremist groups In American Jihad 1 Steve Emerson details the results of his investigation into organizations in the U.S. fomenting violent, extremist Islamic views exactly like those taught in Wahhabi sects in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, as well as London Mosques.  Many officials are complaining that Executive Orders enacted to prevent abuses of domestic intelligence gathering are handcuffing the FBI from adequately surveiling such groups, a sentiment echoed by Emerson.  Harris poll 3  in December says 93% of Americans support this measure.  Libertarians fear abuse of this measure, see "Religious Sanctions" above.
Law enforcement monitoring of Internet discussions in chat rooms and other forums Harris poll 3  in December says 63% of Americans support this proposed measure. Libertarians fear that it is difficult to prevent abuse of this measure.
Expanded government monitoring of cell phones and email, to intercept communication Harris poll 3  in December says 54% of Americans support this proposed measure. Libertarians fear that it is difficult to prevent abuse of this measure.
Facial Scan technology to recognize 
terrorists at airports, government buildings, etc.
Using high tech scanners that quickly match up facial features to full face photographs of known or suspected terrorists -- can be used by customs officials.  86% of Americans agree to this measure according to a December 2001 Harris Poll 3
Close monitoring of bank transactions 
to spot funds to terrorists.
A follow on to the Bush Administration's call to freeze terrorist assets and funding organizations, this would provide triggers to as of yet unidentified financial suppliers to terrorists.  The December 2001 Harris Poll 3 says that 81% of those Americans polled agree with this proposed measure.
Interlink Health Records In order to aid to countering biological and chemical attacks, there are calls to interlink national health records providing needed case by case information when possible epidemic levels are reached, indicating a possible attack.  The records aid investigators in their assessment and may provide normally private personal information by name.



  1. American Jihad:  The Terrorists Living Among Us, Steve Emerson, Copyright February, 2002, Simon & Schuster; ISBN: 0743233247
  2. How Safe are America’s Skies?, Newsweek Web Online at MSNBC, February 13, 2002
  3. Civil Liberties versus Law Enforcement, Harris Poll, included in news story, Islam in the U.S. December 7, 2001, NBC News, MSNBC online
  4. U.S. Senate Appropriations Hearing - May 8, 2002
  5. Spiked Online - May 9, 2002
  6. Civil liberties casualty of war on terrorism, Gordon D. King, Copyright 2002, MSNBC online, March 18, 2002
  7. Various news services, September 12, 2001 through May 9, 2002



© Copyright 2002, MILNET

-- Cherri (whatever@who.cares), June 04, 2002

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