The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

L.A. 8:
Patriot Act used against activists ... from 1987!

Oct 20, 2003

In mid-September, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would pursue the deportation of two U.S. residents of Palestinian origin based on the Patriot Act.

This move is the continuation of a 16-year-long vendetta carried out by the federal government against the two men, Khader Hamide and Michel Shehadeh. In January 1987, the FBI raided the homes of Hamide and Shehadeh and arrested them at gunpoint together with six others. The "L.A. 8," as these seven men and one woman were dubbed, were charged with belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the U.S. government called a terrorist organization.

That accusation didn't last long. Within three months of the arrests, the government dropped subversion charges against six of the eight. They were instead charged with minor visa violations, which have long been dropped.

Hamide and Shehadeh, however, continued to face charges of "terrorism" and "communism" under the McCarran-Walter Act, a McCarthy-era law that allowed the government to deport non-citizens for their political views. On several occasions, federal courts ruled in favor of the two men, calling on the government to drop the charges. But every time the government filed new charges. Even the repeal of the McCarran-Walter Act by Congress in 1990 didn't stop the persecution of Hamide and Shehadeh.

When the government's case seemed to be stuck in federal appeal courts and going in a circle, September 11 happened. The Patriot Act fueled new blood into this endless vendetta pursued by the administrations of four different presidents. The Bush administration decided it could use these new laws against Hamide and Shehadeh. Never mind that these two men have lived in the U.S. for nearly 30 years and never had any links to any kind of terrorism, or terrorist organization.

This case was never about "fighting terrorism" in the first place. Even former FBI director William H. Webster admitted in 1987 that his agency had found no evidence linking Hamide and Shehadeh to terrorism. This was only a case designed to shut up opposition to U.S. policies in the Middle East. These two men were Palestinian activists who spoke out against what the U.S. had done to people in that region. For that, the U.S. government decided to punish them and make an example of them. The September 11 attacks simply provided the government with a new opportunity to carry out its vendetta.