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Thursday, May 27, 2004, 1:58 pm

Didn’t They Hear About The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

By Brian Kehrl
“For the next few weeks we have reason to believe there is a heightened threat to the U.S. interests around the world,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft during a cautionary news conference on May 26. “This disturbing intelligence indicates al Qaeda’s specific intention to hit the United States hard … Beyond this intelligence al Qaeda’s own public statements indicate that it is almost ready to attack the United States.”

Maybe it’s true. Maybe we should be disturbed or even concerned. When the Attorney General and the director of the FBI surface to issue a warning of this caliber, it appropriately should send a shudder of alarm across the country.

However, in addition to the total lack of detail in Ashcroft’s announcement, there are so many unanswered questions: How is this time any different? What about those other times that they raised the terrorist threat advisory and nothing happened? This time they didn’t even increase the color-coded index from its previously yellow—or “elevated” level. Isn’t that the fundamental yardstick for our fear? Why else do they have it? Why does it roll by on FoxNews’ ticker every night, other than to inform the public about the possibility of such threats?

According to the New York Times on May 27, six of the seven names that were released in accordance with the warning were already released months ago and there is no reason to believe that any of them are actually in the United States. Why now, just weeks before the G8 summit and the Democratic National Convention?

In fact, areas around Sea Island, Georgia (where the G8 meeting will be held) and in Boston have already issued “pre-emptive” states of emergency and modified the old laws regulating protest. (Haven’t they heard that “pre-emptive” has developed a bit of a negative connotation in recent months?)

A new law passed by the city council in Brunswick, Georgia, the nearest mainland city to Sea Island, allows police to terminate any sort of protest, peaceful or otherwise, during a “state of emergency.” Coincidentally, Georgia’s governor, Sonny Perdue, announced just such a state of emergency in the six coastal counties near Sea Island only two weeks earlier, although the two groups claim not to have known of each other’s respective actions, according to the Associated Press.

In Boston, in preparation for the convention, they have announced the closure of 40 miles of roadway and a major commuter train station near the convention center. Other aspects of the massive security deployment expected for the convention in Boston and the Republican version in New York in August include the formation of a federal task force by Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge and plans for sweeping, random vehicle searches.

The National Lawyers Guild has decried these acts as “draconian security measures,” and the ACLU has filed suit against Brunswick’s restrictions saying they “impose ‘sweeping restrictions on free speech.’”

Maybe the Bush administration’s new terror concerns are indeed legitimate. But, coupled with the Justice Department and the FBI’s surveillance and infiltration of innocuous anti-war protestors throughout the country and their attempts to characterize and prosecute the entire Greenpeace organization as “sailor-mongers,” warnings coming from Ashcroft et al turn unanswered questions turn into utterly qualified distrust about their sincerity and motives.

Given our increasingly justified doubts about the administration’s recurring cries of wolf, will anyone listen when the beast does arrive, gnashing his teeth at the gate?

In other news, the G8 summit table is nearly complete. It is enormous, made of antique wooden heart pine beams, and it’s exquisite. For more information see: G8 Sea Island Home Page


LINKS:
For Protest News
NYT Article 5/27
National Lawyers Guild
ACLU
Greepeace
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