By Jason Halperin
AlterNet : April 29, 2003
Two weeks ago I experienced a very small taste of what hundreds of South
Asian immigrants and U.S. citizens of South Asian descent have gone through
since 9/11, and what thousands of others have come to fear. I was held,
against my will and without warrant or cause, under the USA PATRIOT Act.
While I understand the need for some measure of security and precaution in
times such as these, the manner in which this detention and interrogation
took place raises serious questions about police tactics and the
safeguarding of civil liberties in times of war.
That night, March 20th, my roommate Asher and
I were on our way to see the
Broadway show 'Rent.' We had an hour to spare
before curtain time so we
stopped into an Indian restaurant just off
of Times Square in the heart of
midtown. I have omitted the name of the restaurant
so as not to subject the
owners to any further harassment or humiliation.
We helped ourselves to the buffet and then
sat down to begin eating our
dinner. I was just about to tell Asher how
I'd eaten there before and how
delicious the vegetable curry was, but I never
got a chance. All of a
sudden, there was a terrible commotion and
five NYPD in bulletproof vests
stormed down the stairs. They had their guns
drawn and were pointing them
indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and
'Go to the back, go to the back of the restaurant,'
I hesitated, lost in my own panic.
'Did you not hear me, go to the back and sit
down,' they demanded.
I complied and looked around at the other patrons.
There were eight men
including the waiter, all of South Asian descent
and ranging in age from
late-teens to senior citizen. One of the policemen
pointed his gun
point-blank in the face of the waiter and
shouted: 'Is there anyone else in
the restaurant?' The waiter, terrified, gestured
to the kitchen.
The police placed their fingers on the triggers
of their guns and kicked
open the kitchen doors. Shouts emanated from
the kitchen and a few seconds
later five Hispanic men were made to crawl
out on their hands and knees,
guns pointed at them.
After patting us all down, the five officers
seated us at two tables. As
they continued to kick open doors to closets
and bathrooms with their
fingers glued to their triggers, no less than
ten officers in suits emerged
from the stairwell. Most of them sat in the
back of the restaurant typing on
their laptop computers. Two of them walked
over to our table and identified
themselves as officers of the INS and Homeland
I explained that we were just eating dinner
and asked why we were being
held. We were told by the INS agent that we
would be released once they had
confirmation that we had no outstanding warrants
and our immigration status
In pre-9/11 America, the legality of this would
have been questionable.
After all, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution
states: 'The right of
the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated; and no
warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the
place to be searched and the
persons or things to be seized.'
'You have no right to hold us,' Asher insisted.
'Yes, we have every right,' responded one of
the agents. 'You are being held
under the Patriot Act following suspicion
under an internal Homeland
The USA PATRIOT Act was passed into law on
October 26, 2001 in order to
facilitate the post 9/11 crackdown on terrorism
(the name is actually an
acronym: 'Uniting and Strengthening America
by Providing Appropriate Tools
Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism
Act.') Like most Americans, I
did not recognize the extent to which this
bill foregoes our civil
liberties. Among the unprecedented rights
it grants to the federal
government are the right to wiretap without
warrant, and the right to detain
without warrant. As I quickly discovered,
the right to an attorney has been
seemingly fudged as well.
When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS
official informed me that I do
have the right to a lawyer but I would have
to be brought down to the
station and await security clearance before
being granted one. When I asked
how long that would take, he replied with
a coy smile: 'Maybe a day, maybe a
week, maybe a month.'
We insisted that we had every right to leave
and were going to do so. One of
the policemen walked over with his hand on
his gun and taunted: 'Go ahead
and leave, just go ahead.'
We remained seated. Our IDs were taken, and
brought to the officers with
laptops. I was questioned over the fact that
my license was out of state,
and asked if I had 'something to hide.' The
police continued to hassle the
kitchen workers, demanding licenses and dates
of birth. One of the kitchen
workers was shaking hysterically and kept
providing the day's date - March
20, 2003, over and over.
As I continued to press for legal counsel,
a female officer who had been
busy typing on her laptop in the front of
the restaurant, walked over and
put her finger in my face. 'We are at war,
we are at war and this is for
your safety,' she exclaimed. As she walked
away from the table, she
continued to repeat it to herself? 'We are
at war, we are at war. How can
they not understand this.'
I most certainly understand that we are at
war. I also understand that the
freedoms afforded to all of us in the Constitution
were meant specifically
for times like these. Our freedoms were carved
out during times of strife by
people who were facing brutal injustices,
and were intended specifically so
that this nation would behave differently
in such times. If our freedoms
crumble exactly when they are needed most,
then they were really never
freedoms at all.
After an hour and a half the INS agent walked
back over and handed Asher and
me our licenses. A policeman took us by the
arm and escorted us out of the
building. Before stepping out to the street,
the INS agent apologized. He
explained, in a low voice, that they did not
think the two of us were in the
restaurant. Several of the other patrons,
though of South Asian descent,
were in fact U.S. citizens. There were four
taxi drivers, two students, one
newspaper salesman - unwitting customers,
just like Asher and me. I doubt,
though, they received any apologies from the
INS or the Department of
Nor have the over 600 people of South Asian
descent currently being held
without charge by the Federal government.
Apparently, this type of treatment
is acceptable. One of the taxi drivers, a
U.S. citizen, spoke to me during
the interrogation. 'Please stop talking to
them,' he urged. 'I have been
through this before. Please do whatever they
say. Please for our sake.'
Three days later I phoned the restaurant to
discover what happened. The
owner was nervous and embarrassed and obviously
did not want to talk about
it. But I managed to ascertain that the whole
thing had been one giant
mistake. A mistake. Loaded guns pointed in
faces, people made to crawl on
their hands and knees, police officers clearly
exacerbating a tense
situation by kicking in doors, taunting, keeping
their fingers on the
trigger even after the situation was under
control. A mistake. And,
according to the ACLU a perfectly legal one,
thanks to the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act is just the first phase of
the erosion of the Fourth
Amendment. From the Justice Department has
emerged a draft of the Domestic
Securities Enhancement Act, also known as
Patriot II. Among other things,
this act would allow the Justice Department
to detain anyone, anytime,
secretly and indefinitely. It would also make
it a crime to reveal the
identity or even existence of such a detainee.
Every American citizen, whether they support
the current war or not, should
be alarmed by the speed and facility with
which these changes to our
fundamental rights are taking place. And all
of those who thought that these
laws would never affect them, who thought
that the Patriot Act only applied
to the guilty, should heed this story as a
wake-up call. Please learn from
my experience. We are all vulnerable so speak
out and organize, our Fourth
Amendment rights depend upon it.
Jason Halperin lives in New York City and works
at Doctors Without Borders/Medicins San Frontieres.
If you are moved by this account, he asks that
you consider donating to your local ACLU chapter.
You can see that all of the words in the Star
Art of USA PATRIOT ACT are spelled using only those letters spelling the
name itsElf ....
USA PATRIOT ACT ... from the letters ... ACIOPRSTTU ..... revealing .....
IS IT A UTOPIA ?
IS IT A PROSAIC ACT ?
IT IS A UTOPIA'S ACT ?
IT'S TAROT IS ~ IT IS A TRAP
AS A RAPIST ACTS AT IT
IT IS A RACIST TRAP
IT IS A RAPIST TRAP
ACTORS ACT AT IT
IT IS AUTIST TRIP
IT IS AUTIST CRAP
AS IT IS A CAPO'S ACT
IT IS A CAPTIOUS ACT
IT IS A USA CAPTOR ACT
IT IS A USA CRAP ACT TO TRAP
IT ACTS AS A USA AUTOPSIC ACT
ITS CORPUS ACTS TO TRAP PATRIOTS
ITS CORPUS ACTS TO TRIP US UP
ITS SCRIPT IS TO TRAP US
AS IT IS A RACIST ACT
IT IS A USA COUP
COPS ACT AT IT
CURS ACT IT
A SAP ACTS AT IT
A PURIST ACTS AT IT
AS A RACIST ACTS AT IT
A PIOUS PASTOR ACT AT IT
IT ACTS TO SCAR OUR USA
AS IT TRAPS A USA TOURIST
IT IS A USA CAPO ICTUS
AS IT TOUTS ITS ACTS
IT IS ITS PIOUS CRAP
CAIRO TO CASTRO
PARIS TO PISA
PORT TO PORT
COAST TO COAST
IT IS A TACIT ACT
IT ACTS AS A TRAP
AS IT IS PIOUS CRAP
IT STOP US AT OUR PORTS
IT'S COST ?
IT IS A USA COUP
AS A COURT IS ITS COSTAR
AS COURTS ACT STOP PATRIOTS
ARTIST ACTS TO POST ITS STAR ARTS
SO IT IS
TO STOP RACIST USA PATRIOT ACTS
USA PATRIOTS OPT OUT
USA CUTS IT OUT
I OPT OUT
ITS OPUS IS
IT IS A USA OUTCAST ACT
IT IS A RACIST TRAP
IT IS A USA TRAP
IT IS USA CRAP
A CAPO ACT
IT IS A PACT TO ACT AS A RACIST
ITS PARTS ACT TO STRIP US
ITS PARTS ACT TO STOP US
SO USA IS TO POSIT IT TO STOP
ITS STAR ARTS STOP
USA IS TO SCRAP IT
a Star Art of ACIOPRSTTU
from, Good Works On Earth
All Rights ReServed World Wise
All Wrongs ReVersed World Wiser
autopsy n. pl. autopsies
1. Examination of a cadaver to determine or confirm
the cause of death. Also Called necropsy Also Called postmortem Also Called
postmortem examination .
2. A critical assessment or examination after
the fact: a post-election campaign autopsy.
[Greek autopsia a seeing for oneself auto- auto-
autopsical adj. autopsist n.
2 n. pl. capos 1. The head of a branch
of an organized crime syndicate.
[Italian from Latin caput, head]
1. Marked by a disposition to find and point
out trivial faults.
2. Intended to entrap or confuse, as in an argument:
a captious question.
[Middle English capcious from Old French captieux
from Latin captiosus from captio seizure, sophism from captus, past participle
of capere to seize] captiously adv. captiousness n.
1. One that takes another as a captive.
[Late Latin captor hunter from Latin capere to
n. pl. corpora Abbr. cor.
1. A large collection of writings of a specific kind or on a specific
2. The principal or capital, as distinguished from the interest or
income, as of a fund or estate.
3. Anatomy a. The main part of a bodily structure or organ. b. A distinct
bodily mass or organ having a specific function.
4. Music The overall length of a violin.
1. A dog considered to be inferior or undesirable; a mongrel.
2. A base or cowardly person.
n. pl. ictus or ictuses Medicine
1. A sudden attack, blow, stroke, or seizure.
1. Not spoken: indicated tacit approval by smiling and winking.
2. a. Implied by or inferred from actions or statements: Management
has given its tacit approval to the plan.
b. Law Arising by operation of
the law rather than through direct expression.
3. Archaic Not speaking; silent.
[Latin tacitus silent, past participle of tacreto be silent] tacitly
adv. tacitness n.