UPDATED BELOW: October 19, 2012
I continue to be drawn to the headline “MAYBERRY UNDER SEIGE: Ramped-up debate security gives Danville new look, feel,” both for its innovative spelling and for the beautiful euphemism for scary-ass security state theatrics. “A lot of people feel like they’re in prison a little bit.” But whatevs…. I just love that.
For the record, almost nobody got in the least bit worked up about the lockdown that came with the VP Debate circus. To most everyone but me, it’s part of a New Normal. A far more typical reaction was to describe close brushes with power, touching the hems of the garments of the great men of politics, or even of MSNBC. “Biden gave me the thumbs up from his limo. You can’t see it, but he did. He waved and gave me the thumbs up.” “OMG Chris Matthews!”
But the prison-worthy lockdown? The locals took it without batting an eye.
And speaking of the New Normal: Americans have gotten a bit jaded about bad things the government does to people that would have been unthinkable prior to the terror attacks of 2001. Still, many would be surprised by recent developments.
Sticking human beings down holes, or into cages–for years, decades, without charge and with no hope of due process–well, that’s just the egg-breaking component of this particular omelette. We’re safer now, don’t you know. Keep telling yourself that.
Until recently, the kinds of people our government snatches and sticks down holes have been nearly exclusively Islamist, or at least Muslim, or at least in some way sympathetic to terrorist groups, or at least sympathetic to groups that are trying to kick an occupying army out of their homeland, or at least let themselves be talked into a cockeyed plot by a paid FBI informant, or at least have a name that sounds sort of Muslim?
But … who saw this coming? The deafening silence that greeted the post-911 civil liberties transgressions has emboldened the government to, ah, cut a corner here and there when it comes to incarcerating and/or intimidating, young American kids (I would say native Americans but that would be, you know, wrong). Anarchists, environmental extremists, as the government would have it, or even … terrorists. Or activists, as they might describe themselves.
People like Leah-Lynn Plante, the 24-year-old woman from Portland in the photo above, who is currently in federal prison, without being charged (habeus corpus: sooooo pre-911) and could remain locked up for 18 months, for keeping silent before a grand jury convened to intimidating her into talking about her associates in the anarchist movement.
Writes Natasha Lennard in Truthout:
Along with two others in the Pacific Northwest, Plante was remanded into federal custody for her refusal to provide a grand jury testimony regarding activists in the region. Matt Duran and Kteeo Olejnik were jailed in previous weeks for, like Plante, refusing to cooperate with a grand jury. All three are now being held in U.S. federal prison, not because they are being punished for crime, but, as the National Lawyers Guild’s executive director Heidi Boghosian told me earlier this year, “to coerce cooperation.”
Writing for Truth-Out in August about the Northwest grand juries and those resisting cooperation, I noted that grand juries “are among the blackest boxes in the federal judiciary system.” The closed-door procedures are rare instances in which an individual loses the right to remain silent. As was the case with the Northwest grand juries resistors, the grand jury can grant a subpoenaed individual personal immunity; Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are therefore protected, but silence is not. In these instances, refusal to speak can be considered civil contempt. Non-cooperators can be jailed for the 18-month length of the grand jury.
Look at her. Am I being naive here? This girl is in federal prison???? She could be my daughter or the daughter of any of my friends, peers, college classmates. Is she guilty of some treacherous crime? No, not at all. She is not charged with any crime.
Will Potter author of Green Is the New Red, an account of “how animal rights and environmental activists are being targeted as ‘eco-terrorists’, and what that means for our safety and freedom,” writes:
Grand juries have historically been used against radical social movements as a tool to intimidate and to gather information. When activists enter a grand jury proceeding, they check their rights at the door. They are asked about what they believe, what their friends believe, who they associate with, what kinds of activism they support. If they choose to assert their First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights by refusing to speak about their political beliefs and political associations, they can be imprisoned.
In the New Normal, idealistic young Americans–not just scary foreigners–can be dropped down a hole, without charge, for 18 months for refusing to rat out their friends.
Just another facet of that “new look, feel.”
Update: Leah-Lynn Plante has apparently been released, according to this post at firedoglake, which links to a statement on the Free Leah Website, which begins
First and foremost, do not panic.
Leah wanted for us to express these points to you with this news:
- She is extremely traumatized and experienced a lot of very, very bad things, but she is alive. The state of her mental health is also very bad.
- She asks that people do not jump to wild conclusions about her release because they do not apply.
- She spent her whole time in SHU / Administrative Detention (solitary confinement) and was told that that is where she would stay for the duration of her incarceration, up to 18 months. She was classified as “different” from Matt and Kteeo.
I’m hoping that she is indeed free, but the preliminary details of her incarceration temper any urge to celebrate.
There is a good deal of good background info on her case in this excellent Kevin Gosztola piece from last Friday, which I hadn’t consulted before writing my post.
While all the bright people on Twitter were beating Romney’s “binders” gaffe into a pulp, this case has brought to light a new willingness on the part of the state to (ab)use grand juries to intimidate people with alternative ideas. Which seems a much bigger deal than Romney’s misstatements or his argument with Obama over who loves coal more.