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Behind the Iron Curtain

A man in some country was recently taken, handcuffed, down into a subterranean interrogation room in the bowels of a police station and asked by a police investigator, "when I look into your writings will I find anything subversive?"

Can you name the country?
A man in some country was recently taken, handcuffed, down into a subterranean interrogation room in the bowels of a police station and asked by a police investigator, "when I look into your writings will I find anything subversive?"

This sounds like something one might have heard coming out of the former Soviet Union. However, it wasn't. The country was America, the man was me, and the interrogation room was in the basement of the massive and imposing Kansas City Jail on 12th street (Tuesday, Sept 16th, 2003). (I'm a writer who's contributed to many publications worldwide, including the Kansas City Star, and the Kansas City Business Journal). This event emblazoned into my mind that something has drastically changed in my America . . . our America.

I had earlier been arrested for attempting to attend a protest of Laura Bush's visit in Kansas City. The arresting police officer "assumed" that I intended to cross a police line blocking Broadway near St. Lukes, that he'd told me could not be crossed. I did not cross the police line, nor did I intend to. I was crossing Washington Street to walk down an open street that was not restricted. But, because the officer "assumed" I was "intending" to cross the police line, which I wasn't, I was forced down on the ground, my hands handcuffed behind my back, forced into a paddywagon, handcuffed, and taken to the Kansas City jail. I was booked, according to the officer, for "Disorderly Conduct. (Or walking where I was ordered not to, which again I had not done)."

There I was fingerprinted and my mug shot was taken, but then something very strange occurred. The sign I brought with me to the protest was given a mug shot as well. I, along with many other Americans, have been working for some time to support the efforts of 9-11 victims families who bizarrely have had to fight their own President Bush for nearly two years to get a full open investigation of what went wrong on and before 9-11. (For example Bush is still fighting, preventing information such as the 28 redacted pages about the Saudi's possible involvement in 9-11, from being released for public scrutiny). My sign read, "What is Bush hiding about 9-11? Stop the 9-11 cover-up!"

Ask yourself this, "Why was my sign given a mugshot to record its message?" Was I under arrest for a legal violation? If so, what did a free speech message I was carrying that had no bearing whatsoever on the reason for my arrest have to do with this situation? Who was this photograph taken for, and for what purpose?

As I sat in the holding area, handcuffed, I was not told until just prior to my release that I would be released on my own recognizance. I sat pondering the dozens of people who have been sitting in American jails for many months now, some with no family contact, and some with no legal representation. Those thoughts give you pause, when you are handcuffed, then unhandcuffed, then handcuffed again and placed in a paddywagon on a steel seat in a wirecaged enclosed holding area, unloaded in a lower level of a massive building, then walked into a barred area, then unhandcuffed, then handcuffed again, then taken to an interrogation room in the bowels of a gray building completely cut off from the world and asked if your writing is "subversive," then unhandcuffed, then handcuffed again, and placed once again in a barred room.

Once in "the system" you immediately realize that you are completely isolated, and completely powerless. You depend on the basic foundations of democratic society . . . it is your only hope. In the "new Bush America" with the advent of the Patriot Act, that foundation no longer exists. The effect this has on society is it creates "a very shaken belief in one's right to do the things absolutely necessary to sustain a free and open society" that being to speak the truth as you see it even when the truth disagrees with your government. Without complete confidence that you have the right to do this without repressive consequences to be visited upon you . . . the free society we all love, cherish, and too often take for granted simply cannot exist.

You see, I have no idea who my mug shot, my protest signs mug shot, and the notes of whether someone deems my writing "subversive" is being recorded for. I'd understand my mugshot being in a KC police file for a "Disorderly Conduct" charge. But who is the other information for? Perhaps no one. I don’t know, and you don't know. But, you begin to see this would be a disturbing concept to ponder given I've accused the highest office in the nation of a cover-up. And when the holder of that office has told his Attorney General that he has the right to indefinitely hold people without legal representation for . . . well, for as long as he wants to, apparently.

In a way, I'm glad this happened to me, because it pushed my face into the corner so that I had to look at the dangers we are unleashing on our national consciousness with the "Patriot Act." Now, I can share my experience with you, and who knows, perhaps it will awaken in you a desire to bring our nation back to the guaranteed liberty we all hold dear.

I implore citizens across this nation to reject the ideas put forth in the "patriot act," that encourage citizens to spy on one another, or to allow law enforcement to peek at what we check out at the library, or what we buy at the bookstore, or what we email to one another . . . because our democratic system is at stake. The dangers of the Patriot Act don't lie as much in the actual indefinite internment of those Ashcroft deems to confine, but the danger lies in the "uncertainty" it places in the mind of every patriotic American who loves his/her country enough to correct it (which is our duty).

Bill Douglas is the author of "The Amateur Parent - A Book on Life, Death, War & Peace, and Everything Else in the Universe," and has written essays on health, environment, and peace and social justice issues for publications worldwide (none of them subversive, in the author's opinion).

"Protesters Feel Big Brother is Watching"
by Lewis Diuguid 11/19/03:

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