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Liberties tested after Sept. 11
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<-- Return To TerrorSpeak

Source: Aberdeen News

Posted on Thu, Nov. 14, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
Liberties tested after Sept. 11
ACLU report details Northern California residents' experiences of losing freedoms, as well as their peace of mind
Contra Costa (Calif.) Times

One woman is visited by police after telling her friend by phone how to play a violent video game. Another who has protested U.S. foreign policy is detained at the airport and told she is on a no-fly list. A man receives death threats because of a class he teaches on the Middle East.

The aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has touched nearly everyone in the United States, but for many unsuspecting people, it has meant a direct loss of liberty and personal safety, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Wednesday, the ACLU released a report telling the stories of 20 people, mostly from Northern California, who have been placed under suspicion as a result of Sept. 11 fallout.

The federal government has arrested, detained and in some cases deported more than 700 people, mostly of Middle Eastern descent, for possible connections to the attacks. In many cases, no links have been found, but suspects have been deported for immigration violations.

Although none of the 20 people listed in the report have received that kind of treatment, many have had their lives rudely changed, said Dorothy Ehrlich, executive director of the ACLU of Northern California.

"We know these 20 stories are only the tip of the iceberg," Ehrlich said at a press conference Wednesday. "Many more people were afraid to come forward and tell their stories."

UC Berkeley junior Charlotte Wu recounted her experience in a casual, even voice that seemed at odds with her Orwellian tale.

About a month after the attacks, Wu was in her dorm room instructing a friend over the phone about how to play a popular video game "Metal Gear Solid" that involves exploding bombs to get through walls.

Thirty minutes later, she was visited by three University of California police officers who questioned her about why she had been talking about bombs over the phone. She eventually convinced them she had only been discussing a video game.

"I'm still bitter over it, and I still censor what I say over the phone," Wu said.

UC police Capt. Bill Cooper said Wu's suitemate had called police saying she had overheard Wu talking about planting bombs and grenades in a low voice.

"It seemed to me we had to check it out," Cooper said. "When someone says my neighbor is planning to plant bombs, it would be irresponsible to ignore it."

Most of the incidents described in the report happened to people who were Muslim, Asian or political activists opposing U.S. policy.

San Francisco immigration attorney Marc Van Der Hout said the civil rights of non-whites have taken a beating since Sept. 11, as many immigrants have been detained indefinitely and tried behind closed doors.

"The (Bush) administration is on course to completely eviscerating due process to allow itself to do what it wants when it wants and to whom it wants to," Van Der Hout said.

Justice Department officials have responded to such criticism by calling their actions necessary practices during wartime.

Daly City resident Marcia Perez said she and other non-whites feel under pressure to shut up and keep a low-profile in these troubled times.

After the attacks, her son Marcelo was kicked off his in-line hockey team after she criticized U.S. foreign policy in the presence of the team's coach, she said.

"I explained to my son, 'This is your first experience with racism,'" Perez said. "When they don't agree with you, this is how they will react."

In another case, Erlinda Valencia, a Filipino-American, may lose her job as an airport screener because of new security guidelines. Also Snehal Shingavi, an Indian-American instructor at UC Berkeley, has received death threats because of his pro-Arab teachings.

<-- Return To TerrorSpeak

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