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It's a Free Country: Personal Freedom in America After September 11


A groundbreaking collection of new pieces examining the effects of George W. Bush’s legislative assault on civil liberties following the terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Foreword by Cornel West, author of Race Matters, with original essays by Michael Moore (Stupid White Men, Downsize This!), Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Tom Hayden (former California senator, author of Irish on the Inside), Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Robert Scheer (L.A. Times columnist), Ira Glasser (former head of the ...

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A groundbreaking collection of new pieces examining the effects of George W. Bush’s legislative assault on civil liberties following the terrorist bombing of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Foreword by Cornel West, author of Race Matters, with original essays by Michael Moore (Stupid White Men, Downsize This!), Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Tom Hayden (former California senator, author of Irish on the Inside), Congressman Jerrold Nadler, Robert Scheer (L.A. Times columnist), Ira Glasser (former head of the ACLU), Lillian Nakano, political cartoonist Matt Groening, Patti Smith, and many more. Also, firsthand stories from victims of civil-liberty infringement, such as the chief of police in Portland, Oregon, who resisted federal pressure, and Fathi Mustafa, a Palestinian caught in the wave of racial profiling.

This debut title from RDV Books is edited by the company’s three publishers. Danny Goldberg, president of Artemis Records and Sheridan Square Entertainment, has worked hands-on with more popular musical talent than any other recorded-music executive. He is also one of the very few who has worked with every major genre of popular music: rap, country, folk, classical, jazz, pop, rock, R&B, and jazz. Robert Greenwald is a filmmaker and has directed many feature movies, including Steal this Movie, Breaking Up, and Xanadu. Victor Goldberg (father of Danny) is formerly co-publisher of Tikkun Magazine and associate publisher at The Nation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The dozens of contributors to this volume range from journalists and writers (Michael Moore, Michael Isikoff) to members of Congress (Maxine Waters, Jerrold Nadler) to current and former ACLU leaders (Nadine Strossen, Ira Glasser) to cartoonists Matt Groening and David Rees. But perhaps most original here are the personal testimonies of civil rights violations, such as the tale of the Mustafas, a Palestinian-American father and son, both American citizens, detained (the son for 67 days) on the baseless suspicion of having "altered" their passports. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
9/11 The attacks of September 11 precipitated a range of governmental actions in the name of national security that, while supported by most Americans, alarmed a significant vocal minority: those people who worry about civil liberties. These dissenting voices are collected in their many and varied forms in this book edited by three publishers at RDV Books who have connections to the ACLU. It should not be surprising that many of the articles are by past and present leaders of or lawyers for the ACLU. But this eclectic mix of rather short (mostly two- to three-page) pieces essays, interviews, cartoons, a poem, congressional testimony, monologs, and personal accounts from historians, lawyers, representatives, a movie director, a singer-songwriter, and others demonstrate the complexity and fragility of civil liberties in a crisis environment. While the quality of the pieces is uneven, the book's greatest weakness is that, with the exception of an entry by Rep. Bob Barr, all the writing comes from thinkers on the Left. There should have been greater attention paid to balancing the opinions. Despite this shortcoming, this lively book should be added to the collections of larger public libraries. With a foreword by Cornell West. Thomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780971920606
  • Publisher: Akashic Books
  • Publication date: 9/1/2002
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Danny Goldberg is a longtime music executive and political activist. He coproduced and codirected the rock documentary No Nukes and has written for the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, AlterNet, and others. He lives in New York City and is an ACLU officer and board member. This is his first book. ROBERT GREENWALD has produced and/or directed more than forty-five television, cable, and theatrical films, including the award-winning NBC-TV movie The Burning Bed, and the recent theatrical film, Steal This Movie, about Abbie Hoffman. Through his newly formed "Public Interest Productions," Greenwald is executive producing Unprecedented—a documentary about the 2000 election. Greenwald is on the Board of Directors of "A Place Called Home," a gang-prevention program in South Central Los Angeles, and of the Venice Community Housing Corporation, which provides low income housing in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

A Primer: Wartime Erosion of Civil Liberties" by Howard Zinn
Americans are proud of the Bill of Rights, and especially of the First Amendment to the Constitution, which declares that Congress may make no new law “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” Not many of them know that the First Amendment, while it looks good in print, becomes inoperable when the nation is at war, or when there is some tense international situation short of war (a “cold war”).

It is ironic that exactly when a free marketplace of ideas is necessary, when matters of life and death are the issues, when Americans may be killed in war, or may kill others, our freedom of speech disappears. Yet that is exactly what the Supreme Court decided at the time of the First World War, when the venerable Oliver Wendell Holmes, speaking for a unanimous court, said that freedom of speech cannot be allowed if it creates “a clear and present danger” to the nation. In fact, the case before the Supreme Court at that time was that of a man named Schenck, who had been imprisoned under the Espionage Act of 1917, which made it a crime to say or write things that would “discourage recruitment in the armed forces of the United States.” That was interpreted by the courts to mean that any statement made in criticism of the United States’ entry into World War I would constitute such discouragement, and was therefore punishable by up to ten years in prison.

But long before that “clear and present danger” criterion was enunciated by Holmes, it was, in effect, operating to negate the First Amendment. Indeed, barely seven years after that amendment became part of the Constitution, Congress did exactly what the amendment said it could not: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” That was 1798, when, oddly enough, both the new revolutionary government in France and the new one in the United States were in a tense situation of “cold war.” Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts which made it a crime to say anything “false, scandalous and malicious” about government officials “with intent to bring them into disrepute.” A number of people who criticized the administration of John Adams were arrested and sent to prison under this Act.

But it was in the twentieth century, and especially during World War I, that suppression of free speech made the constitutional guarantee meaningless. Two thousand people were prosecuted, and a thousand imprisoned, for speaking against the conscription law, or against the war. An atmosphere was created in which it became very difficult to speak one’s mind, either because of fear of government prosecution, or because zealous citizens, catching the war fever, harassed and persecuted fellow citizens who opposed the war.

As an example of the absurdities that accompany wartime hysteria, the World War I period saw the prosecution of a filmmaker who made a movie about the American Revolution. Since the “enemy” in that movie was Britain, and since the U.S. was now allied with Britain, the court ruled that the film violated the Espionage Act. The title of the film was “The Spirit of ’76,” and the name of the court case was U.S. vs. Spirit of '76.

At the end of World War I came the notorious “Palmer Raids,” named after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Thousands of non-citizens were arrested, detained, and deported without hearings or any of the due process guarantees of the Constitution.

World War II brought more repressive legislation in the form of the Smith Act, which made it a crime to “teach and advocate” the overthrow of the government by force and violence. During World War II, eighteen members of the Socialist Workers Party in Minneapolis were given prison terms, not for specifically advocating such ideas, but for distributing literature like the Communist Manifesto. And over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were put in detention camps simply because of their national origin, a cruel act of wartime excitement.

The Cold War period that followed the Second World War created an atmosphere in which a hysterical fear of Communism led to loyalty oaths for government employees, imprisonment for Communists, and jail terms for anyone refusing to answer questions put to them by the House Committee on Un-American Activities about their political affiliations. It was a time when the FBI was compiling lists of hundreds of thousands of Americans who had in some way registered their dissent from government policies. Congress passed legislation allowing the deportation of non-citizens who were members of organizations listed by the attorney general as subversive. Although the United States was by far the most heavily armed nation in the world, there was an induced fear of the Soviet Union, and then of Communist China, which enabled the government to ignore the Bill of Rights. The fear was far out of proportion to the actual danger, to the point where children were told to hide under their schoolroom desks as protection against nuclear bombs.

Thus, there is a long history of loss of liberty in wartime which forms a precedent for what is happening in the United States since September 11: the intimidating proliferation of American flags, the harassment of people from the Middle East or indeed anyone looking like a Middle-Easterner, the mass detention of non-citizens without trial or due process. The question is whether Americans will at some point begin to understand that the “war on terrorism” has also become a war against the liberties of Americans, and will demand that these liberties be restored. Without the right to speak freely, to dissent, we cannot evaluate what the government is doing, and so we may be swept into foreign policy adventures with no oppositional voices, and later lament our silence.

Howard Zinn was a bombardier during World War II. As a professor at Atlanta's African-American universities in the 1950s, he took part in civil rights picket lines. He wrote the controversial and influential A People's History of the United States (Harper Perennial, 1980) and was one of the first academics to strongly oppose the war in Vietnam.

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Table of Contents

Foreword: Lift Every Voice by Cornel West
Introduction by Danny Goldberg

More Safe, Less Free: A Short History of Wartime Civil Liberties by Ira Glasser
A Primer: Wartime Erosion of Civil Liberties by Howard Zinn
American Presidents and Civil Liberties by Paul Starr
We Can Learn From History by Paul Simon
Expert Perspective on Civil Liberties Curtailment: An Interview with Nat Hentoff
It’s Empire Versus Democracy by Tom Hayden
Conservatives and Liberals Unite to Conserve Liberty and Security by Nadine Strossen
The Sorrow and the Pity of Racial Profiling by Ralph Temple
The Chilling of Dissent Post–9/11 by Chris Mooney
Poem: Self-Evident by Ani DiFranco

Selections from House Floor Statements by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Freedom Versus Security Issues by Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA)
Common Sense, Security, and Freedom: An Interview with Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA)
Our Loss of Civil Liberties in a Post–September 11 World by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA)
A Prayer for America by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)

The “Secret” War Against Civil Liberties by Anthony Romero
America: “Land of the Free”? by Norman Siegel
Casualties of War: Anti-Terror Hysteria by Ramona Ripston
The Danger of Remaining Silent by Donna Lieberman
Matt Groening Cartoon

The Misuse of "Intelligence" in the Name of Security by Michael Isikoff
"Patriochialism": September 11 and the Death of Debate by Michael Tomasky
How the Media Threatens Civil Liberties by Danny Schechter
The Knock at the Door by Eve Pell
Against a Twenty-First Century Star Chamber by Jeremy Voas
David Rees Cartoon

What the Hell Do I Know? by Robert Greenwald
All I Am Saying is Give War a Chance: The Private Correspondence Between Michael Moore and George W. Bush by Michael Moore
Civil Liberties and Bare Breasts: Me and My John Post–September 11 by Jenna Malamud Smith
An Open Letter to Senator Joseph Lieberman and Lynne Cheney by Martin Sherwin
The Politics of Retribution by Steve Earle

Is This a Dark Age for Fundamental Legal Protection? by Michael Ratner
Human Rights and the Campaign Against Terrorism by Kenneth Roth
Legalized COINTELPRO by Kit Gage
Military Tribunals by Arthur N. Eisenberg
Dehumanization via Indefinite Detention by Judith Butler
The Ashcroft Raids by David Cole
National and International Court Systems to Fight Terror by Anne-Marie Slaughter
Human Rights Violations and Discrimination in San Francisco in the Wake of September 11 by Nichole Truax and Hadas Rivera-Weiss

Tale of the Mustafas by Dan Gerson
The Weight of a Nation by Andrew Kirkland
Horror at Home: An Innocent’s Victim’s Story by Michel Shehadeh
Academic Freedom and Free Speech in the Wake of September 11 by Dr. Sami Al-Arian
The Return of Xenophobia--An Asian-American Commentary by Helen Zia
How Muslims Have Been Hurt by Governmental Action Since 9/11 by Mohammed Sohail
Racial Profiling in the Pursuit of Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. by Mervat Hatem
Psychological Loss of Freedom Since the Attacks by John Tateishi
Braving the Storm: American Muslims and 9/11 by Hodan Hassan
A Fear of Flying by Asma Gull Hasan
The Japanese Internment Experience by Lillian Nakano
AUTHORBIO: Danny Goldberg is Chairman of Artemis Records, an independent company with an artist roster that includes Steve Earle, Rickie Lee Jones, Warren Zevon, Boston, Kittie, and Khia. A longtime political activist, Goldberg is on the Board and Executive Committee of the NYCLU, and is President of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. He has written for The Nation, The American Prospect, Los Angeles Times, and Tikkun, for which he served as co-Publisher along with his father Victor.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2002

    Essential Reading

    Critical reading for an informed citizenry. Learn how 9-11 is being exploited to further the political agenda of the extreme right-wing in the USA. If we are not diligent, we may in the dawn of a new McCarthy era, wherein a simple unproven accusation is enough to ruin a person's life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2002

    More exploitation of 9/11, this time from the left

    Apparently windbags on the left are as eager to exploit the September 11 tragedy as are their noxiously gaseous counterparts on the right, which, as a progressive, I find distressing. Actually, this book is offensive on several fronts. First off, it is sloppily thrown together, with slipshod, clearly tossed-off contributions from many left-of-center journalists, some of whom (like Michael Moore) tend to speak before they think, thus hurting their cause, however worthy it might be. On top of that, the book is redundant, with contributors echoing each other over and over and over again. Better and much less indulgent editing would have helped here. The book¿s design, too, leaves a lot to be desired (it¿s downright ugly). The worst offense, though, has been committed by the book¿s publisher, which crassly released this volume just in time for 9/11¿s first anniversary, thus proving itself as rapacious as any fly-by-night right-wing press. But then, as I¿m sure the authors of this tome would agree, that's capitalism.

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