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Thursday, December 31,2009

A look back at the Aughts

By Pamela White

2002: The War on Terror

Silence on Terrorism: Free Speech? Not in my backyard

Jan. 3, 2002

The impact of 9/11 was still fresh in everyone’s mind as 2001 ended and a new year began. The military effort dubbed Operation Enduring Freedom was already under way in Afghanistan. But Taliban in Kandahar and Jalalabad weren’t the Bush administration’s only targets.

For Boulder Weekly, 2002 began with the cover story, “Silence on Terrorism,” which reported disturbing incidents from across the country where those who opposed the Bush administration’s tactics or the use of military force were bullied by right-wing pundits, university presidents and conservative groups into silence and accused of everything from lack of patriotism to sympathizing with terrorists.

Bush had already proclaimed, “You are either with us or against us,” setting the stage for conflict rather than thoughtful public dialogue.

Then it became clear that 9/11 was being used as a pretext to delve into the activity of U.S. citizen activists. As Boulder Weekly reported on March 28, associating with an environmental group left Americans vulnerable to intelligence gathering on the part of law enforcement. With the expanded powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Act, federal agencies and law enforcement were suspected of surveilling not just people with ties to al Qaeda or the Taliban, but also progressive activists and even peace groups.

On the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the paper took a look at the sobering change in American society itself. David Kopel, a Boulder author and attorney, examined the government’s use of Facial Recognition Technology and its use in general surveillance in public places, such as sports stadiums and public streets. Did it not disturb the average American that their faceprint might be included in a law-enforcement database without their knowledge?

Wayne Laugesen looked at the new alliance between liberal Jews and conservative Christians.

In “Freedom for safety,” Nick Gillespie reported that Americans seemed only too eager to trade civil liberties for an illusion of safety, with few questioning the provisions of the PATRIOT Act or moves toward national ID cards.

“By nightfall [of Sept. 11, 2001], it seemed, we had changed from a nation that placed a uniquely high value on privacy and freedom to one that embraced security and safety as first principles,” he wrote.

The year closed with a Dec. 19 article on the arrest of eight Boulder peace activists who’d staged a sit-in at the office of Sen. Wayne Allard to demonstrate their opposition to any military action in Iraq. The article, written by Joel Warner, a freelancer who later joined the editorial staff, offered an overview of the peace movement that compared it with the peace movement of the Vietnam war era, finding it just as strong and well organized — and perhaps a bit wiser.

But could the peace movement prevail in an atmosphere of fear?

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