Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy

By Susan N. Herman | Go to book overview

1.
The Webmaster and the Football Player

They were doing things I didn’t ever think government agents
would do
.—Liz Brandt, University of Idaho Law School (2010)

What angers me most is that these are resources that could be
spent pursuing real bad guys
.—David Manners, former CIA station
chief for Jordan (2004)

The part that surprised me was when I read the First Amendment
instructions
.—John Steger, Idaho juror (2004)

JOHN STEGER, a retired Idaho forest worker, did not expect that he would be sitting in judgment on the Patriot Act or on the First Amendment when he was called for jury duty in April 2004. The case he was assigned to hear was a criminal prosecution against Sami Omar al-Hussayen, a thirty-four-year-old University of Idaho doctoral student whose Saudi name and origins must have seemed exotic in Idaho, a highly conservative state where Arabs make up less than two-tenths of 1 percent of the population.

Sami, who was in the country on a student visa, had been living in Moscow, Idaho (population about 20,000), for five years, along with his wife, Maha, and their three young boys while he worked toward his degree in computer studies. As a Muslim student leader, Sami had led a candlelight vigil on the Idaho campus shortly after 9/11, condemning the attacks as an affront to Islam. His neighbors knew him as a gentle man, the last person anyone would suspect of terrorist sympathies. But Sami was on trial for providing “material support” to terrorists because he volunteered as a webmaster for the Islamic Assembly of North America, a Michiganbased organization, among other groups. The Islamic Assembly described its websites as designed to “[s]pread the correct knowledge of Islam; [and] [w]iden the horizons and understanding … among Muslims concerning

-23-

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Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 3
  • I - Dragnets and Watchlists 21
  • 1 - The Webmaster and the Football Player 23
  • 2 - "Foreign Terrorist Organizations/’ Humanitarians, and the First Amendment 39
  • 3 - Charity at Home 51
  • 4 - Traveling with Terror 66
  • 5 - Banks and Databanks 86
  • II - Surveillance and Secrecy 103
  • 6 - Gutting the Fourth Amendment 105
  • 7 - The Patriot Act and Library/Business Records 121
  • 8 - Gagging the Librarians 136
  • 9 - John Doe and the National Security Letter 150
  • 10 - The President’s Surveillance Program 165
  • III - American Democracy 187
  • 11 - Losing Our Checks and Balances- The President the Congress, and the Courts 189
  • Conclusion 209
  • Notes 219
  • Further Reading 259
  • Photo Credits 263
  • Index 265
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