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

By Susan N. Herman | Go to book overview

3.
Charity at Home

America’s relationship with the Muslim community, the Muslim
world, cannot, and will not, just be based upon opposition to
terrorism
.—President Barack Obama, remarks to the Turkish Parliament
(2009)1

[Terrorism financing investigations of Muslim charities] can
undermine support in the very communities where the government
needs it most
.—9/11 Commission Staff Report (2004)2

I don’t have any religious rights anymore; I ask, am I living in
America?
—Sharif B., a Muslim resident of Richardson, Texas (2008)3

THE REACH OF the Patriot Act–enhanced material support laws can be breathtaking, especially when combined with other aggressive post-9/11 strategies. One Bush Administration Department of Justice lawyer, for example, announced to a court that a “little old lady in Switzerland” who contributed to a charity because she intended to support an Afghani orphanage could be held in Guantánamo as an “enemy combatant”—indefinitely and without due process—if her money was passed along to Al Qaeda.4 But President Bush decided to open an additional front in the war on terrorism financing by enlisting the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), a law that had been designed to clarify and limit the power of presidents to impose blockades or economic sanctions on hostile foreign nations—like Iran, Myanmar, or Libya—in emergency situations.5 Using this statute against private American organizations or individuals was a stretch, but Bush had a surprising precedent: in 1996, Bill Clinton had branded a U.S. citizen named Muhammad Salah a “specially designated terrorist” without any hearing, notice, or trial because he was believed to be a supporter of Hamas. This declaration made it a crime for anyone in the United States to give Salah a job or sell him a sandwich—a kind of economic quarantine.6

-51-

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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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