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Bush surveillance makes ‘Big Brother’ a reality

Gaylord Guenin

The Woody Creek Store has become something of a little community center, particularly in the mornings when many of our Woody Creatures gather to enjoy organic coffee or espresso, a hot breakfast or some delightful sweets. It has become the kind of gathering spot you would expect to find in a small community.So it came as no surprise the other morning to find Kevin Doyle and a bunch of other neighbors enjoying morning coffee and conversation. Kevin owns Woody Creek Cellars and has already gained national attention for a couple of his prize-winning wines. He had recently been to Telluride and was talking about his trip when he suddenly stopped and excitedly proclaimed that there was something he had to show all of us. He ran out to his car and came back with a document he had obtained in Telluride during his visit. It is a resolution of the “Town Council of the Town of Telluride, Colorado, expressing the commitment of the Town of Telluride to civil rights and liberties and establishing a civil liberties safe zone.”The document makes it clear that there are serious concerns among some Telluride residents with certain aspects of the Patriot Act, which was passed on Oct. 26, 2001, shortly after the hideous destruction of the World Trade Center towers by terrorists.The resolution is lengthy but a couple of excerpts should give you the gist of the document: “Whereas the policy of the Telluride Marshal’s Department is that all detentions or stops must be supported by reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, and that all arrests and searches of persons and/or property by officers in Telluride must be conducted in compliance with the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution; and the Mayor, and Chief Marshal have confirmed to the Council that this policy is and will remain in full force and effect: and “Whereas the policy of the Telluride Marshal’s Department is, further, that officers shall not consider ancestry, race, ethnicity, national origin, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender variance, marital status, physical or mental disability, or religion as a sole basis for establishing reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a basis for requesting consent to search …”Another part of the resolution states: “That the Town of Telluride affirms its strong opposition to terrorism, but also affirms that any efforts to end terrorism not be waged at the expense of essential civil rights and liberties of the people of Telluride, the United States and the world.”That resolution was passed in Telluride on March 4, 2003, which makes the good citizens of that ski town into something on the order of prophets, particularly in light of all the illegal domestic surveillance that has been uncovered recently and so desperately defended by George W., our compassionate-warrior president. It would seem that George W. and his pack of incompetents in Washington, D.C., are determined to establish an authoritarian state here while they quietly flush our Constitution down the toilet. Yes, we must do all that we can to combat terrorism, and George W. has the authority to do that within existing law. But somehow the administration believes it can operate outside of the law, that the National Security Agency (NSA) can eavesdrop on all of our phone calls and e-mails without securing warrants. Such open-ended surveillance, such willy-nilly snooping without some form of supervision, is frightening.The argument is that we are at war and desperate measures are required. But if the NSA is allowed to eavesdrop without any restraints, when will the war on terrorism become a war on the political foes of the current administration? Remember President Nixon’s infamous “enemies list”? Bob Herbert of The New York Times recently wrote, “Whatever its stated goals, the NSA seems to operating the greatest fishing expedition in the history of the world.” It is argued by some that if you have nothing to hide, if you are not a criminal, then you have nothing to fear from illegal snooping and wiretapping. But who decides if you are a criminal or not? Republicans have consistently labeled those who disagree with George W.’s policies to be “traitors.” Isn’t a traitor a criminal? And if I am viewed as a traitor, does that not make me a “potential terrorist”? This is scary stuff.The sad thing is that George W. has the power to snoop and the power to do it within the law simply by obtaining warrants, which a compliant court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would happily serve up. According to The New York Times, the NSA has turned over thousands and thousands of names, e-mail addresses, all sorts of tips to the FBI, all of which “led to dead ends or to innocent Americans.”We need to know what the real purpose of all this secret surveillance is. We actually have entered an era where we may have to fear Big Brother.Kevin wants to urge the Woody Creek Caucus to establish a “Civil Liberties Safe Zone” in Woody Creek. I would encourage such a move. The First Amendment to our Constitution is one of the most precious rights that we have. Secret surveillance is an assault on free speech. I have a right, even an obligation, to disagree with my government, but if I am to be labeled a “terrorist” for doing so, we will have become an authoritarian state. This is the 325th article in a two-part series devoted to the community of Woody Creek, a place where “can you hear me now,” may take on a new meaning.


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