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Symposium Says Rights Have Eroded Since 9/11

Publication Date: 
February 27, 2011
The Dallas Morning News
Michael E. Young

Lecturer Joe "Chip" Pitts III spoke a symposium at Southern Methodist University called "Normalizing Crisis Mode: The Perpetual Erosion of Civil Liberties and Human Rights." In the following story, The Dallas Morning News' Michael E. Young relayed some of the major points made by Professor Pitts::

Scenes on TV screens showing Middle Eastern protesters confronting an armed government response seem impossibly distant to many Americans. But for groups fighting what they see as an erosion of human rights in the U.S., the parallels are clear.

At a Sunday symposium called “Normalizing Crisis Mode: The Perpetual Erosion of Civil Liberties and Human Rights” at Southern Methodist University, an event coordinated by the Dallas Peace Center, speakers lamented post-9/11 losses in the name of security.

In Middle Eastern uprisings against long-standing dictatorships, keynote speaker Chip Pitts saw parallels with government action in the U.S. and lessons from groups dedicated to preserving rights and liberties.

Pitts, former chairman of Amnesty International USA and past president of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, said the overthrow of totalitarian governments in the Middle East came at the hands of a coalition of “techno-youths” and groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, built on a history of pro-democracy units that refused to die despite heavy-handed government response.

“You need coalitions,” said Pitts, and he suggested some that might seem wildly unconventional. “You need groups like the tea party. Have you read [Sen.] Rand Paul’s take on the Patriot Act? We need to get the churches involved, and groups like the NRA [National Rifle Association].

“And you need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. The pro-democracy movements in the Middle East have been going on for years.”


“The Patriot Act eliminated a lot of checks and balances,” Pitts said. It led to increased surveillance and “entrapment and stings of ‘terrorists’ created by law enforcement,” he added.

It’s even to blame for those body scanners at the airports, Pitts said, which “give you the option of a dose of radiation from the scanners, or being groped by the TSA [Transportation Security Administration].”