Democratic Underground

Brother, Can You Spare a Dream Team?
December 17, 2001
by Tommy Ates

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There is a wise phrase that says, "If it ain't broke. Don't fix it." Why then is U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft trampling on civil liberties? The answer is simple: it's convenient; it's helpful; and it makes everybody's job a lot easier, save the average citizen, who couldn't dream of getting an O.J.-style "Dream Team" defense like the American Taliban, John Walker, will likely receive.

So, if only the rich would be able to get an adequate defense, then what groups would benefit from the "new" liberties President Bush has bestowed upon the American people? The answer is also simple: have you made a Right lately? When have you cashed in your NRA or sought to increase your 401K? If by osmosis, the spectre of the conservative movement, the gun lobby, and corporate interests come to mind then, like Sherlock Holmes, "By Jove, I think you've got it!"

However, you don't have to be an Englishman to be fooled by the NRA joining with the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations on the lobbying front to defeat the eroding rights that the good Ashcroft says are vital for 'Homeland Security'. The NRA is concerned about one thing: guns. And the Attorney General set their minds at ease at the Congressional hearings last week when he stated that guns sold at gun shows would be protected from the new regulations. The ACLU might as well the face the fact that is largely as its own, the lone surfer on the post-Sept. 11th conservative tidal wave.

What does this mean to minorities? Well, if you've heard of fast-track capital murder charges and sleeping attorneys in big-city courtrooms, then get ready for the Twilight Zone II: Instant Justice. By sidestepping many of the regulations and protections our civilian court system provides, justice becomes a fast-food carryout service, servicing the rich and leaving the poor to say, "May I take your order please?" (The only exception to this scenario is that you are already in jail and the restaurant has outsourced the customer service detail to the prison where you're getting paid 5 cents an hour.)

Do you think that is not a rational scenario? Under the Ashcroft Counter-terrorism provisions, a citizen would need to know how the legal game is playing BEFORE entering the game. For minorities and the poor, they fall into the game, and some don't get out (i.e., Shaka Sankofa, Mumia Abu Jamal). Yes, my fellow citizens, we are in a "Brave New World" and unfortunately, the rules are being written with the destination already preprogrammed. Only ACLU, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and some Democratic Senators bold enough to challenge the "patriotism" of the new laws can provide a fair oversight of this Trojan horse agenda; but this isn't the only area of legality which has the potential to change.

In terms of attorney-client privilege, the meaning of the trust relationship itself is put into question, especially with government-provided attorneys whose loyalties (even though paid with taxpayer money) are supposed to be explicitly tied to the client. Now with the possibility of "observed" conversations (i.e. eavesdropping), would attorneys be compelled to ask for plea bargains for their clients since the two cannot honestly regarding the nature of the offenses? Increasingly, civil libertarians are realizing the playing field is becoming the "the playa's ball" with Ashcroft as head pimp. Again, can I get a "Dream Team"?

Above all, President Bush is to blame for these regressive policies, for nothing the Attorney General does is without his approval. It is shame that US civilians are unable to trust that their government will be able to give due protections provided for them in the Constitution. Not only will minorities be disadvantaged when it comes to buying justice, but we will open to "subjective" racial profiling as nearly 5, 000 Arab-American males will be when their "interview" project is complete.

If that isn't bad enough, someone please say why smart, while males between the ages of 35 and 55, with a military background, are not being profiled in light of the ongoing Anthrax domestic terrorism, of which the Justice department is virtually clueless? Why is it even when terror and death can look Americans in the face we still only see color? We haven't learned people; we haven't learned...