An Open Letter to America
I grew up learning
that America was different from any other country. Not because America was a democracy, there have been and are many other democracies. Not because America’s government has checks and balances between the branches, other countries have similar types of structures. Not because America has a Constitution, other countries have constitutions. America was different because of three very powerful words. Other countries constitutions were written by their governments, which dictated the terms of their constitutions to their people, who are subjugated by those governments. America’s Constitution, however, was not written by the government. The constitution of the United States was written by extraordinary individuals who were not governmental employees. In fact, the chairman of the Constitutional Convention was not a member of state government, a military leader, or even an elected delegate. The chairman of the Constitutional Convention was a farmer. His name was George Washington. (His Excellency, Joseph J. Ellis 2004 p171, 173-175) The three words that make America different are the first three words of our Constitution: “We the People” (www.thisnation.com/constitution.html). The people of America are the author of their Constitution and only in America are the “People” considered “…the fountainhead of all authority” (“His Excellency”, Joseph J. Ellis 2004 p176) and the government is subjugated by the people.
I grew up learning
that because the government is subjugate to the people that there are actions that the government simply may not take, ever. The government may not enter a Citizen’s home or search a Citizen’s belongings without either the Citizen’s permission or a court order, unless there is an immediate threat to life or property. I learned that a court order may only be obtained when the court is presented with enough evidence to convince a judge that suspicion of criminal activity is reasonable. I also learned that the same standards apply to any action the government may wish to take that would infringe upon a Citizen’s rights. Such actions include, but are not limited to: surveillance, collection of information, interrogation, and infiltration of a Citizen’s surroundings or a group of Citizens (Constitution of the United States, 4th and 5th amendments).
I grew up learning
that all interactions between the government of the United States and the Citizens that it serves are a matter of public record to be openly scrutinized, so that the Citizenry is educated on the government’s actions and can therefore control the government (Freedom of Information Act, also see laws ensuring that court proceedings are a matter of public record).
I grew up learning
that the government may not judge a member of its Citizenry. A Citizen may only be judged by other Citizens. An American Citizen is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of their peers (Constitution of the United States, 6th amendment). No action may be taken against a Citizen by the government to limit a Citizen’s rights unless that Citizen is convicted of a crime in a court of law (Bill of Rights).
I grew up learning
The American government may not come into your home and take you or your family away. This is called illegal seizure and is prohibited by the 4th amendment to the Constitution.
The American government may not “…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…” (Constitution of the United States, 4th and 5th amendments).
The American government may not collect information on its Citizens through any surveillance activities without a warrant issued by a court of law (Constitution of the United States, 4th amendment).
The American government may not combine, collate, and/or data mine any information the Citizenry gives to the government as part of a Citizen’s normal duties (The Privacy Act of 1974).
These were things that dictatorships, monarchies, and despots did to their people to control and intimidate them. The United States government was forbidden from participating in these activities against its Citizenry.
I grew up learning
that our rights, including but not limited to the ones I have described above, which we enshrined for ourselves in our Constitution and laws, were won and defended through great bloodshed and hardship by those who came before us.
I grew up learning
that those who came before us had pledged their very lives to create this nation by authoring and signing “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America” which proclaimed to the world that the people have the right to abolish any government that does not justly and dutifully serve them (Declaration of Independence).
I grew up learning
that the people who authored the Constitution had learned the hard way, and by studying history, that governments could not be trusted to behave correctly. They understood that a government’s natural inclination is to accumulate power. Therefore the government could not be in control, but had to be controlled by the Citizenry. They also knew that just saying that we had freedoms didn’t mean we did. They knew that if the Citizenry were to be able to truly control the government then the government could not be allowed to act in a way that intimidated or stifled the Citizenry. They knew that if the government could spy on, collect data on, infiltrate meetings of, and otherwise surveil the Citizenry without showing just cause, that the Citizenry would not be able to control their government (High School level civics courses, Supreme Court ruling: United States vs. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).
I grew up learning
that as an American Citizen I may speak my mind, travel as I please, and do as I please without any interference or surveillance from the government as long as I do not interfere with the rights of other American Citizens to do the same. And I learned that the President and Congress work for us. Yes, “We the People” are the President’s bosses.
As I grew, I looked around and observed this nation and recognized it. America looked to me as I had learned.
But before I learned any of that, I stood straight and tall, placed my right hand over my heart and said a pledge that ended with the phrase:
“ With Liberty and Justice for All .”
Over the last few weeks I have seen this nation anew, and I no longer recognize it.
I am shocked, saddened, disheartened, and dismayed.
What follows is what I now see in America.
I see the government impeding the liberty of Citizens.
The government has created “watch lists” designed to prevent persons of suspicion from entering, traveling within, or harming America. The effects of these lists are that Citizens are harassed and intimidated during travel. I read in today’s newspaper that a woman, who has served in our military to defend this nation, has had her name added to a “watch list”. Every time she attempts to board a plane her luggage is searched and she is questioned by security. These experiences have caused her to travel less and to even pack differently so that other Citizens and the government that employs them are not privy to her belongings. In short, this Citizen’s liberty to travel around our country is being infringed upon. (www.startribune.com/563/story/193666.html) What this woman has had to deal with is just one example of how American Citizens that have done nothing wrong and have committed no act against America are being treated by their government! These lists are not public information. There is no public scrutiny of how the lists are compiled. There is no justification given for why your name may be on a list. Nor is there any appeals process in place enabling you to have your name removed from these lists. The secrecy of these “lists” prevents the Citizenry from knowing of abuses and from supervising and verifying the accuracy of these “lists”. (The Transportation Security Administration’s website openly admits all of the above.) There is also one other huge problem with these lists. Every American Citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers. These lists, however, name American Citizens as guilty of being a threat to the government. This presumption of guilt is unconstitutional (Constitution of the United States, 5th amendment).
I see the government enlisting and training Citizens to spy on other Citizens.
The President himself called on the Citizens of the United States: government employees, plumbers, delivery drivers, and other service personnel that move into and out of our homes on a regular basis, to “keep an eye out” for suspicious activity or material when inside another Citizen’s home. The government, at the direction of the President, has also set up recruitment and training for all over-the-road truck drivers to teach them how to properly spy on people while they are driving and what types of activity or material to be on the lookout for. This activity may not seem like a direct violation of the Constitution, but it is. The government knows that it may not act against you without cause, so it is enlisting other Citizens to act as its agents and collect information for it. In other words, the government is enlisting Citizens to be its “eyes and ears”. The names of these programs are “Citizen Corps” and “Operation TIPS” (2002 State of the Union Address, www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020130.html, Presidential speech in Atlanta on November 8, 2001).
I see the government intimidating its citizens by depriving them of liberty without due process of law.
In May of 2002 the government of the United States arrested an American Citizen on a material witness warrant. This Citizen was initially detained in a civilian jail. On June 9th of 2002 this same Citizen was removed from the civilian jail by the U.S. military and placed in a military prison. Not until March 3rd of 2004 was this Citizen allowed to meet with attorneys and not until November 22nd of 2005 was this Citizen charged with a crime. So this Citizen was held incommunicado without rights and without access to attorneys for 2 years and 10 months. And this Citizen was incarcerated for 3 years and 6 months without being charged with a crime (see any documentation on the imprisonment of Jose Padilla including the timeline found at www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,176446,00.html). These actions by the government are not, in any way, American justice. Government seizing of Citizens off the street and holding them incommunicado without charges for an indeterminate period of time are the types of human rights abuses that the American government usually protests! These actions by the government of the United States are simply not allowed by our Constitution (Constitution of the United States, 4th and 5th amendments). The President claims to have the authority to designate a U.S. Citizen as an enemy combatant. In other words, the President claims to have the authority to decide who is a Citizen, protected by the Constitution, and who is not a Citizen and therefore not protected by the Constitution. The President would be correct except for one historical fact, and three little words: “We the People”. The government did not author the Constitution; therefore it has no authority to designate who is protected by it and who is not. “The People” wrote the Constitution and can decide whether a government is dutifully abiding by it or not. And if the government is not dutifully abiding by the Constitution, then the People have the authority and the right to remove that government (Declaration of Independence). The President has it backwards. He does not have the right to remove us. We have the right, the authority, and the power to remove him (Constitution of the United States, Article II, section 4).
I see the government collecting information about Citizens without warrants.
The President has authorized the National Security Agency to, without obtaining warrants, intercept, record, and analyze any domestic communications that involve communication outside of the United States. The NSA has been secretly conducting these operations since 2001. For over four years the government has been conducting domestic spying operations on its Citizens without any judicial oversight (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10488458, New York Times December 16, 2005).
I see the government collecting information about Citizens without showing reasonable suspicions about those Citizens.
Recently I learned that the government is attempting to randomly gather information from the world’s most popular search engine Google. Millions of American Citizens use Google’s services everyday. They use Google to find restaurants, movies, other people, books, hobbies, educational materials, and jobs. The list goes on and on. In short, the government can now learn a great deal about its Citizens without doing any surveillance at all. All the government has to do is get access to Google’s records. The government claims that this information is for statistical purposes only and cannot be used to identify anyone in particular. But, as a software engineer, I know that this information may include many indicators that, once combined with other information that the government already has access to (a process known as data mining), can be used to identify a household’s or even a specific individual’s online activity and interests. Once into Google’s records, the government can build a picture of what you like to do, where you like to go, whom you associate with, what groups you’re affiliated with, what your political leanings are, and even what your hopes and dreams may be. I can think of no greater threat to our liberties than for the government to have a single point of contact to collect so much information about its Citizens.
I strongly encourage everyone reading this to contact Google and ask how they can help Google in its efforts to defeat this unconstitutional act by our government.
If you currently use other search engines such as Yahoo! and AOL, I suggest that you stop using them immediately. Yahoo! and AOL have complied with the government and have already turned over your search data and search habits. Microsoft has refused to comment on whether or not it has even received a subpoena (www.theage.com.au/news/world/google-fights-bush-on-search-data/2006/01/21/1137734186112.html). Until Microsoft reveals its level of cooperation, I suggest that everyone refrain from utilizing Microsoft’s online services. I also recommend that if you currently have internet service provided through AOL or Microsoft that you seriously consider switching to another service provider. As internet service providers they have other data concerning your online activities other than just searching habits. They also have personal identification information that you have provided to them in order to purchase their service.
I see the executive branch accumulating power.
The President has apparently decided that there are no checks and balances within the government’s structure. He has blatantly disregarded the judicial branch of our government by:
- Unilaterally ordering domestic spying without judicial oversight
- Removing at least one Citizen from the judicial system and placing that Citizen into a military brig while denying that citizen access to any legal recourse
- Using the military and C.I.A. to keep suspected terrorists out of the country so that legal charges may not be brought against them thereby denying American Citizens the right to face and try those suspects in our courts
- Passing legislation allowing law enforcement to enter a Citizens home without a court issued warrant
- Holding a Citizen for over 3 ½ years without due process
- Ordering “roving wiretaps” without judicial oversight
Basically, the President has removed the judicial branch from its role of checks and balances against the presidency and Congress.
I see the consequences of the President’s actions.
Our court system, once regarded as the best and fairest in the world, is now deemed by the President as unnecessary and inept. The President directs information gathering on Citizens without court approval. By keeping suspected terrorists out of the country so that those terrorists cannot have access to attorneys and fight charges against them, the President shows that he doesn’t trust our judicial system. By excluding the terrorists from our courts the President also denies Citizens the right to judge those who acted against us.
I hear people talking and wondering if they are on some “list”, or if the government is listening to their conversations, or collecting information about them. All of this talk and wonder is beginning to intimidate Citizens and stifle speech. Citizens are beginning to watch what they say, and they are beginning to act more guarded in their day to day lives and activities. Citizens are even guarded when speaking to other Citizens because who knows which Citizens are part of the “Citizen Corps” and might be engaged in spying.
There are also external consequences as the rest of the world is watching our government.
The world now sees that America talks the talk, but we do not walk the walk. When push comes to shove, the government of the United States begins suspending liberties, acting against international treaties and norms of behavior, using other nations to interrogate suspects using techniques that are not legal in America, and openly violates the Constitution.
I see the pattern.
The pattern I see is very clear. The government of the United States, mainly the Executive branch, is: accumulating power, extending its reach into Citizen’s lives, attempting to erode the meaning of constitutionally guaranteed rights, assuming authority not granted, and stifling all opposition, while finding legal loopholes in international treaties like the Geneva Convention, and being silent in cases of human rights abuses and censorship world-wide.
The pattern shows that our government has radically changed direction and philosophy. The government is no longer about what used to be called “the American way”:
- Freedom of Speech.
- Freedom of Religion.
- Freedom of Association.
- Right to Bear Arms.
Now the philosophy of our government is “survive at all costs”. The “costs”, by the way, are Citizen’s rights and their ability to subjugate their government.
I see that the President has broken his sworn oath of office.
When the President was sworn in he said these words: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Everything that I have testified to in this letter proves that the President has not preserved, protected, or defended the Constitution. He has instead, attacked it, attempted to weaken it, and has even actively sought to limit its power. He has broken his oath of office.
I see either an inept or complicit Congress.
On August 8, 1974 a President had to resign to avoid being impeached by Congress because he attempted to cover up an illegal act. That act was the burglary of the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate hotel and office complex on June 17, 1972.
On January 7, 1999 impeachment proceedings began because a President lied under oath and attempted to impede an investigation.
I point out the two examples above to show that for offenses that involved burglary and lying Presidents have had to face impeachment. Those two President’s actions, for which impeachment was considered, did not involve spying on Americans, imprisonment without due process, violations of the Constitution, or breaking their oath of office.
But in 2006 a President has run roughshod over Citizen’s rights and Congress has done nothing. Why has Congress not acted to protect Citizen’s rights?
I see historical parallels to our current situation.
There was another country in our very recent past that had enlisted its citizenry as government agents to spy on other citizens and to collect information and to be the “eyes and ears” of the government. Its citizens lived in fear. Its citizens dared not talk openly to neighbors or friends or even family members because they didn’t know who would possibly report them to the government. That country was known the world over for its arguably superior spy agency. The acronym for that agency was KGB and the country was the Soviet Union. The same country that then President Reagan called an Evil Empire.
There are countries today whose governments actively collect information on their citizens. The government’s watch which websites are visited, they record their citizen’s communication, and they even pick up and interrogate their citizens. Those countries include: China, Syria, Iran, and North Korea, just to name a few. Our current President has called out two of these countries as being part of an Axis of Evil.
I even found one country where a leader was democratically elected by its citizens, and then played on those citizen’s fears to accumulate power. He claimed that external forces would destroy the country. He claimed that certain types of individuals within the country were a threat to security and needed to be closely watched. He created “watch lists” for security purposes. The citizens believed their leader. Because of their fears and anger and patriotism and pride, and their trust in the leader, they allowed the leader to consolidate power. That leader was Adolph Hitler.
There was a time when another George ruled this land. This George sent armies to quell the population, seized property without justification, imprisoned people without due process, and sent spies out among the people. This George’s actions resulted in the people declaring “Enough!” by authoring the Declaration of Independence. The American Revolution resulted.
I can find no evidence in history of any government that, once it began usurping power and weakening its Citizenry, ever willing relinquished power, or survived. The governments that behaved in a controlling and ruling fashion toward their Citizenry have historically met the same fate: their own demise.
Historians often question how it is that people allow their countries to be turned into ones that can be referred to as the “Evil Empire”, or to be included in an “Axis of Evil”. Edmund Burke answered their questions when he said, “All that evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
I see the real threat.
Osama Bin Laden is the villain of our generation. He has ruthlessly attacked America, its Citizens, and its allies around the world. He is despicable and cowardly and I stand against him.
But Osama has not, in any way, infringed on our Constitutional rights as American Citizens. He has not listened to our phone calls, intercepted our email, or assumed the power to claim that we are no longer Citizens. He has not locked us away without due process and without access to attorneys or family. Osama has not attempted to gain access to online searches that give insight into American Citizen’s lives and claim that it is a perfectly legal act. In fact, Osama has not limited Americans capability, capacity, freedom, or liberty at all. The President has committed all of these atrocities and more.
After the attacks of 9/11/2001, the President stood on Ellis Island in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and said “You are either with us or against us”. At the time I assumed that “us” meant American Citizens. But now I see that the “us” are the President and those that are helping him accumulate power within the executive branch. Just as I stand against Osama for attacking America, I stand against you Mr. President for attacking our rights, usurping power, and not dutifully abiding by the Constitution authored by “We the People”.
Patrick Henry did not proclaim “Give me life and security and peace”. He knew that with freedom comes both responsibility and risk. Patrick Henry did say: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
Many have followed since Patrick Henry gave his speech. Many have died, been wounded, spent time in camps as prisoners of war, killed enemies, marched in protest, and been incarcerated. One refused to give up her seat on a bus in Selma. One stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and dared to dream. All paid a price so that we may be free and have the rights that we had before 9/11/2001. I will not stand by and see all of their lives and sacrifices go for naught.
I see a America vanishing before my eyes.
I personally feel my freedoms and my “…inalienable rights…to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” being taken away. Before 9/11/2001 I briefly traveled outside the boarders of the United States. I actually felt uneasy knowing that I was no longer under the umbrella of the Constitution. I had no rights in this foreign land, no protections, and no representative to speak for me or to intervene on my behalf.
Today, as I write this letter, I am apprehensive and afraid. Will I now be on a “list”? Will my communications be listened to by the government? Will I be followed? Will I wake up one night to the sound of my front door being kicked in by agents of the government? Will I be deemed a non-Citizen by the President? Will I be locked away for years without due process and without access to my friends, family, or attorneys? And what will become of my family and friends, what will happen to them? These are the questions that people living in the Soviet Union used to have to ask themselves. I would have never asked these questions 5 years ago. But now the government that is supposed to serve its Citizens is instead attempting to rule its Citizens and, as a result, Citizens are in fear of their own government.
I see that this must stop.
I am not some radical who has an agenda. I represent no group, no faction, and no special interest. I’m simply an American Citizen. But, after considering all of the above, and much more, I’ve decided that I cannot just sit back, keep quiet, and hope that someone else stands up and says “Enough!” I therefore openly and publicly exert my right as an American Citizen to publicly petition the United States Congress to impeach President George Walker Bush for violations of Citizen’s rights and for the unconstitutional acts described herein.
But simply impeaching the President is not enough. We Citizens must once again assert our control and authority over our government and put it back in its rightful place as our subjugate servant.
"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
John Cameron Grady, Jr.
a single voice, that will no longer be silent
Distribution of this Message
The letter above was sent to Congressman Jim Ramstad, and Senators Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman on February 14, 2006.
Congressman Jim Ramstad replied to this letter on March 2, 2006. The envelope containing the letter declared itself a public document, so I feel it is appropriate to include it within this website. To read his response click here.
Senator Norm Coleman replied to this letter on March 24, 2006. I am not sure if it is appropriate to include his letter on this website as it did not state that it was a public document. However, the envelope does state that it is official business of the United States Government so I have included it on this website. If the Senator objects, I will remove it. To read the letter click here.
Senator Mark Dayton replied to this letter on April 21, 2006. I am not sure if it is appropriate to include his letter on this website as it did not state that it was a public document. However, the envelope does state that it is official business of the United States Government so I have included it on this website. If the Senator objects, I will remove it. To read the letter click here.
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Except where explicitly stated, the opinions, views, and conclusions expressed on this site are solely those of John C. Grady, Jr.