THE BLOG
11/20/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gitmo Gotcha, You Betcha

Apple pie, our majestic flag, and endless fields of grain were symbols of a proud America for more than two centuries during which the United States became a beacon of hope for much of the world. Yet in just eight years since the disastrous election of George W. Bush, the image of our nation has become much less benign and our symbols much more ominous.

Abu Ghraib, naked prisoners cowering in dog collars, and orange-suited detainees behind razor wire at Gitmo are now the grainy images of America. That is George Bush's legacy to the world. But his gift to the American people is equally sinister. Bush has taken from us the most precious, the most important right we held as American citizens, and he did so with virtually no protest from a somnambulant populace. Bush has trampled our right to privacy and guarantee of personal freedom.

As we descend toward lawlessness under the Bush regime, Yaser Esam is the most important person you have never heard of, but his name, and his fate, should send spasms of fear down your spine. Because you could be next.

While Esam has an obvious origin in the Middle East, he is an American citizen, like you, me, your mother, brother, minister and neighbor. He has the all rights that every other American citizen expects to enjoy living here in the land of the free. Whatever happens to Esam under the law could happen to you. The laws designed to protect us against illegal arrest and unwarranted search and seizure apply equally to all American citizens, including you and Esam.

Those laws are now void. Esam was arrested and held for years as an enemy combatant in prison facilities in Virginia and South Carolina. Understand clearly what happened here. On American soil, in American jails, an American citizen was incarcerated without trial, deprived of a lawyer, not allowed to face his accusers, denied a writ of habeas corpus to seek relief from illegal detention, held in secret from his family, and deprived of light and human contact for extended periods. You could be next. You could be the next American citizen to be taken illegally from home by federal authorities. You would be helpless. Your family could not come to your aid, for you would be arrested with no warrant and held incommunicado. Your lawyer could not assist, because you would not be allowed one. A judge could not prevent abuse because you would be denied your writ of habeas corpus.

We have quietly surrendered our most precious rights with no protest.

We now live in an era in which an American citizen has no more protection than a Soviet comrade living in fear of the Gulag. You would be dangerously delusional if you feel any level of protection or any degree of security from this abuse because your name is Steve and not Yaser. Lawlessness does not have quaint constraints against maltreatment. You are not immune. Esam is proof. He is no less an American citizen than you are. He could be innocent, guilty or a horrible terrorist, I have no idea. But that is for the courts to decide in a fair trial, what any American would expect from the law.

If the government can arrest Esam in secret, you have no protection against similar treatment. None. You are vulnerable, have no doubt about that fact. Consider your wife or husband being taken away in the night, never to be seen or heard from again. That is now the reality living in the United States. That is not the hysterical cry of a conspiracy theorist; we know this is happening right now. Illegal conduct implemented at Gitmo has now metastasized to the shores of the United States. Where is the outrage?

Those abuses are not restricted to illegal arrest. American citizens are put on "no fly" lists with no explanation, helpless to change the designation with no process for protest and no means of appeal. The books we read in the library are now subject to government search. We learned recently that the National Security Agency is now listening to and transcribing phone conversations between American soldiers and contractors and their loved ones back home. Intimate conversations between American citizens are now routinely monitored by federal agents. The accepted practice for legal eavesdropping is to immediately stop listening and transcribing if the conversation is clearly unrelated to national security. Until now that has always meant that personal calls between Americans were off limits. No more. Where is the outrage?

President Bush went on national television and said in 2006, "The United States does not torture" even though two secret White House memos written in 2003 and 2004 explicitly endorsed waterboarding, the very form of torture for which we prosecuted Japanese military officials after World War II. Bush's blatant lie before the American people has more significance than a soiled dress, yet we do not discuss impeachment. Where is the outrage?

Where is the outrage?