Waiter, there's a gun in my face! - Yes sir, it's our patriotic dish of the day.
April 30, 2003 7:28 PM   Subscribe

Jason Halperin went into a New York curry house, and got a side dish, he didn't expect.
-- A gun in his face and the trashing of his constitutional rights. Tasty.
"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."
posted by Blue Stone (67 comments total)
I know it's not very nice, but I really want something like this to happen to Michael Savage, or Bill O'Reilly, or at the very least a few of those "America, Love It Or Leave It" yahoos, just to see the look on their face.
posted by RylandDotNet at 7:38 PM on April 30, 2003

I never expected I would say this but Canada is starting to look nice.
posted by y2karl at 7:48 PM on April 30, 2003

So did he make it to see Rent or not???? I think that is the important issue here.
posted by mary8nne at 7:59 PM on April 30, 2003

I never expected I would say this but Canada is starting to look nice.

Sure that it didn't "start" around 2:37 AM?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:00 PM on April 30, 2003

If all the people who were ever discriminated against - and even WASPs are - remembered their own experience and made a point of exposing themselves to it now and again, just to remind themselves, my guess is the world would be a happy, "live and let live" place. And if this sounds Pollyannish, so be it.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:05 PM on April 30, 2003

In seriousness, this is frightening shit. The same mefites who trumpetted the wonders of the PATRIOT (namely Midas) should take note of craziness like the above. The instutions of power that have been most egregiously abused throughout history ewre often originally created with good intentions.

Many conservatives are beginning to come around. Their ilk would be wise to heed this: "Do whatever you want to guys named Guido -- that doesn't affect me," Norquist said. "Someday Hillary Clinton's going to be attorney general and I hope conservatives keep that in mind."

Personally, I'm more fearful of individuals being denied due process because of "terrorism" investigations, but does it really take that much perspeective to see how we might want to avoid providing anyone with such an obvious toolkit for political spying?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:08 PM on April 30, 2003

And more:

"There's no question the government has to have the tools to protect us from terror attacks and to prosecute those who want to harm us," ACU Executive Director Stephen Thayer said, "But having said that, the American Conservative Union wants to be sure that Congress takes into account the civil liberties of the citizens and through their deliberations reaches the proper balance between law enforcement and protecting citizens' rights," he added.

Christopher Pyle, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who served on the Church Committee, a Senate select committee that studied government intelligence gathering, put it a bit more forcefully.

"I don't think the Fourth Amendment exists anymore," said Pyle, a professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, referring to the amendment that prohibits unreasonable search and seizure and requires probable cause for a search or arrest. "I think it's been buried by the Patriot Act and some of the court rulings that have been handed down. We need a requiem mass for the Fourth Amendment, because it's gone."

posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:13 PM on April 30, 2003

Jesus. Everyone needs to actually read the FPP's link. That's truly amazingly scary shite.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:15 PM on April 30, 2003

On behalf of ordinary people living in ordinary circumstances we welcome ordinary Americans to our world! One word of advice, though: please stop asking so many questions and please, do whatever they say. Please, for our sake.
posted by MzB at 8:23 PM on April 30, 2003

The same mefites who trumpetted the wonders of the PATRIOT (namely Midas) should take note of craziness like the above.

lakefxdan (aka dhartung) made a good point about this evebt's relationship with the Patriot Act on WarFilter. It's still a sacry story, though, and might be more a reflection of NY law enforcement's recent mindset than anything.
posted by homunculus at 8:41 PM on April 30, 2003

Come on people! The Eurasians have been on the attack for too long! Oceania must defend itself in anyway it sees fit. Those of you who don't like it ought to go back to Iraq, with the "turr-ists." Gawd bless Uh-mer-ka.
posted by drstrangelove at 9:12 PM on April 30, 2003

I am not willing to start another pessimistic thread, and topics are related, so here it goes:

What I'm going to suggest is a road map of factors in failures of group decision making. I'll divide the answers into a sequence of four somewhat fuzzily delineated categories.
(1) First of all, a group may fail to anticipate a problem before the problem actually arrives.
(2) Secondly, when the problem arrives, the group may fail to perceive the problem.
(3) Then, after they perceive the problem, they may fail even to try to solve the problem.
(4) Finally, they may try to solve it but may fail in their attempts to do so.
While all this talking about reasons for failure and collapses of society may seem pessimistic, the flip side is optimistic: namely, successful decision-making. Perhaps if we understand the reasons why groups make bad decisions, we can use that knowledge as a check list to help groups make good decisions.

- Jared Diamond

Have we passed step (1) or are we getting close to (4) ?

via kliuless and ./
posted by MzB at 9:16 PM on April 30, 2003

Ooooh, nice sting, Armitage.

Kind of childish, sure, but what the heck.

As to the actual story, unless there is information we don't have - pretty damned disturbing.
posted by John Smallberries at 9:50 PM on April 30, 2003

I hate to even bring it up, but is there any, you know, independent confirmation that this even happened? I mean, I don't mean to cast wild aspersions on Alternet columnists or anything, but there have been past incidents where columnists have, um, shallwe say, stretched the truth just the teensiest bit in order to make a point. I mean, sure, not naming the restaurant or any of the other people involved other than Roomate Asher, and then not getting any sort of quotes or information from the police, or the guys involved, I mean, it could be seen as something of a put-up job.

You know, by skeptical types.
posted by UncleFes at 10:04 PM on April 30, 2003

Others are skeptical of this story as well.
posted by Plunge at 10:39 PM on April 30, 2003

I'm sorry, this story is almost certainly false. Check out the following quote:

"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."

So, the writer thinks that readers of THE ALTERNETwill "subject the owners to ... further harassment or humiliation."? Really?

Or is he afraid that readers will, if he names the place, actually go there and start asking questions for themselves?

'Cause the bad guys from the gov't certainly know where the place is, since they raided it, so he can't be hiding their identity from Ashcroft.

In fact and in deed, wouldn't alterneters go of out of their way to patronize an establishment unfairly victimized by the 'patriot act'?

When are wingnuts going to realize what the rest of us have known all along - that you have to ask the toughest questions of folks who tell you what they know you want to hear ...?
posted by Jos Bleau at 10:58 PM on April 30, 2003

I never expected I would say this but Canada is starting to look nice.

No it's not. Please stay home. Thanks.
posted by zarah at 11:05 PM on April 30, 2003


From the article:
"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 Security investigation."

Even if another law was the mechanism in this instance, PATRIOT could have been the means by which warrants were obtained, or could just be a cloak for basic illegal searches. PATRIOT certainly came about in a climate of not asking questions. If someone points a gun at you and says "patriot", they are probably going to win.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:08 PM on April 30, 2003

Last line: "If you are moved by this account, he asks that you consider donating to your local ACLU chapter."

I'm with the skeptical.
posted by hama7 at 11:13 PM on April 30, 2003

If someone points a gun at you and says "patriot", they are probably going to win.

If someone points a gun at you and says "Get a weblog, fuckwit," they are probably going to win. Guns are like that.

and why are we capitalizing 'Patriot'? It's not an acronym.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 11:24 PM on April 30, 2003

Actually, it is an acronym:
Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism
posted by faustessa at 11:49 PM on April 30, 2003

and why are we capitalizing 'Patriot'? It's not an acronym.

Correction, it is a shitty acronym.

Question: I understand that USA PATRIOT is an acronym but what does it actually stand for?

Answer: You are right, the USA PATRIOT Act is an acronym and it stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001.

And I have commented too many times in this thread. I commend your subtlety and leave.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:51 PM on April 30, 2003

A little googling turned up this page with a phone number.

Perhaps, if it's not too creepy, one of you doubters could ring and check him out?
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:57 PM on April 30, 2003

Groan. I stand corrected. It is a shitty acronym.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 2:02 AM on May 1, 2003

Most shocking thing about this story, to me, is the appearance of the Homeland Security officer. It's like a real-life MIB sighting.

I remember all the conspiracy stories back when Tom Ridge was first appointed; about the occult symbol of the Office of Homeland Security, the origins of the name itself, and the SS-like uniforms they were supposedly going to wear. There may not be checkpoints, but still. It's scary now, to know that they're actually out there. "Homeless Security" officers, just walking around on the street.

Wish the guy had given the place's address. Wish it had made the network news (even though there's no way in hell they would ever run this story). I think if you want to be a skeptic, though, maybe you should bear some of the burden. [sarcastic X-Files reference]The truth is out there.[/sarcasm] Go talk to some cabbies, eat at some South Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian or what-have-you restaurants. It is extremely irresponsible to just sit back and deny the possibility of any injustice without making an effort to get at the truth.
posted by son_of_minya at 2:43 AM on May 1, 2003

I mean, looking at how little the guy's name comes up on a search, pretty well only in association with this article or this Nobel Peace Prize winning doctor's organization, reason to actively doubt his claims are sort of scarce... But, yeah, someone whould call. That person should post here saying that they're taking the fact-checking duty, so we don't innundate the poor guy with 15,000 phone calls. I suggest asking for the name of the restaraunt, but vowing to continue to keep the name secret, using it only for fact-checking purposes. Bonus points if you're in NY and don't mind trudging up to meet the restarantuers or the author himself.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:51 AM on May 1, 2003

"New York curry house"? Is Halperin British?

Also: Why keep the restaurant name secret? It's the kind of verifying info which will lend infinite credibility to the story.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:58 AM on May 1, 2003

It is a somewhat interesting story with a touch of drama a la The Siege. I guess a portion of Jason's readers find their (un)expressed Orwellian fears confirmed. However, before proper evaluation [ A) Authority - B) Accuracy - C) Objectivity - D) Currency - E) Coverage ] it remains a somewhat interesting story - nothing more, nothing less - just fiction.
posted by psychomedia at 5:22 AM on May 1, 2003

"New York curry house"? Is Halperin British?

What would an American say?
posted by Summer at 6:09 AM on May 1, 2003

An American would say "Indian Restaurant".
posted by alms at 6:20 AM on May 1, 2003

Plus, the dialogue he makes up for the supposed "agents" is completely ridiculous.....this story confirms far too much to every alternet readers (including mine) worst nightmare. I would like to see it confirmed by a real journalist.
posted by pjgulliver at 6:38 AM on May 1, 2003

"conforms" not "confirms"
posted by pjgulliver at 6:41 AM on May 1, 2003

You know, I'm sure the writers of this story thought they were doing their cause a favor, but the truth is they're not. We've often talked on mefi about the differences between alternative and mainstream media. Many have bemoaned the lack of attention given to alternative sources. This is the reason why so few read them. You have an astoundingly fake sounding story with no evidence at all, which just happens to support the viewpoint of the publisher. Some of these quotes are unbelievably cheesy sounding.

One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: "Go ahead and leave, just go ahead."

What, is this an alternet story, or Dirty Harry? Next time anyone talks about the mainstream media's spin doctors, and how we should all read alternet, I'm linking to this article.
posted by unreason at 6:48 AM on May 1, 2003

I can't imagine that he would make this up out of the blue, but I'm not buying it. A couple of things:

1) I catch a bus to Jersey City on the very block that Rent plays on every day, and the place is lousy with tourists and students after work. It's near impossible to find a restaurant anywhere near Times Square before theater time that doesn't have a mixed bag of races and social classes in it. Times square ain't Chinatown, folks.

2) He never explains what exactly the mistake is that was made by the INS. Isn't that central to the story?

3) The agents kept their guns pointed at the detainees for an hour and a half (fingers on the trigger)?

I'm going to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and say something like this might have happened, but I can guarantee that some of the details are exaggerated or completely fabricated.
posted by Samsonov14 at 7:08 AM on May 1, 2003

Would we blindly trust a vanity post on FreeRepublic about being held up by a swarthy man who said he was "doing it for Allah, Bin Laden and Saddam"? Corroboration please. I bet raids like this are happening, but I don't accept the fuzziness of this account.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:12 AM on May 1, 2003

(Troll post...)

Here's my question - how many of the skeptics in the audience are middle-class white Americans?

Yep, I'm a bit skeptical of the account, too - but I remember men being sodomized with plunger handles, beaten in the street, and shot with wooden dowels because they looked suspicious. I remember SWAT teams beating down the door of a residence, zipstrapping everyone in the house and raiding it for over two hours, only to discover it was the wrong address. I remember cops shooting the family dog on a minor traffic stop.

I guarantee that, to many minority communities, this sounds not only plausible, but all too familiar.

To give them credit, even cops these days aren't sure what their jobs entail thanks to the modification of the Bill of Rights called the PATRIOT Act.

So, what are you going to do about it? If you're one of most American citizens, nothing - after all, it doesn't affect you...yet...
posted by FormlessOne at 7:52 AM on May 1, 2003

Formless, you got me. But just because I'm a middle class white guy doesn't mean I'm retarded. There's a difference between being blind to the truth and seeing things with a a critical eye, you know.
posted by Samsonov14 at 7:59 AM on May 1, 2003

I took a guess at Helperin's email adddress, based on the syntax used by MSF, and sent him an email inviting him to weigh in here. I'll post if I hear back.
posted by luser at 8:00 AM on May 1, 2003


That's not a troll. That's the voice of reason.
posted by son_of_minya at 8:04 AM on May 1, 2003

Here's my question - how many of the skeptics in the audience are middle-class white Americans?

Guilty as stereotyped, but I think the same thing is probably true when applied to many of the people here accepting this as whole truth with no backup.

The situation is indeed plausible to my mind. The lack of corroborating detail and the cinematic tone make this particular account dubious, to say the least.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:04 AM on May 1, 2003

Also: Why keep the restaurant name secret? It's the kind of verifying info which will lend infinite credibility to the story.

I would think that if the writer HAD named the restaurant there would be the potential for backlash, not by the government, but by some less enlightened individuals wanting to clean up some "terr-ists".

Call me a cynic, but while I am skeptical about some of the info in the article, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if it were true. Uglier things have happened in this country, and not all that long ago.
posted by evilcupcakes at 8:18 AM on May 1, 2003

Have there been any reported incidents of US citizens taking matters into their own hands to clean up terrorists?

And if this story is being posted on alternet.org what is the chance that anyone who reads the site would have anything but sympathy for this restaraunt?

And again, who's heard of an almost completely empty restaraunt a block from Times Square?
posted by pjgulliver at 8:44 AM on May 1, 2003


a) There is apparently no non-Web material available to confirm this event.
b) There are no clearly defined references to other participants involved.
c) The informational content is not clearly separated from opinion.
d) There are no independent sources available to verify the information.

The article written by Mr. Harpelin can not be taken serious until its validity has been established. Currently, the information quality is more or less zero, as I mentioned in a previous post. I do find it a bit sad as this article, at least to some extent, could have been important.

We can of course discuss wether we (want to) believe the story is true or not, but since there is no substance other than Harpelin's own words, I find it rather pointless.

I have, however, expressed my concerns in an email to AlterNet, and I do hope they take their time to verify the content of this article.
posted by psychomedia at 9:05 AM on May 1, 2003

...it's of course Halperin, not Harpelin. stoopid me kant thpell. pft.
posted by psychomedia at 9:21 AM on May 1, 2003

Have there been any reported incidents of US citizens taking matters into their own hands to clean up terrorists?

Yes, but it's usually takes the form of vandalism. A few months after 9/11, we had a few mosques get trashed and the convenience store down the road (owned and run by people of Middle Eastern origins) was fire-bombed with Molotov cocktails. I'd say it isn't totally unheard of for people who have no clue (and are racist to boot) to go out and do what they think is "right" for their country.

Still, I am not sure I quite believe this story yet, though I do fear that things like this might happen some day (if they aren't already).
posted by Orb at 9:36 AM on May 1, 2003

I never expected I would say this but Canada is starting to look nice.

No it's not. Please stay home. Thanks.
posted by zarah at 11:05 PM PST on April 30

Believe zarah. Canada is cold.
"CANADA Nine months of winter, three of poor sledding." isn't just a tag line.

When there isn't snow the black flys come out. Or as we call them "Flying piranhas". Sure we have free health care but the tax rate is running 98%. And you have to pay your taxes in canadian money which is weird looking and isn't worth anything. It's a horrible, horrible place to live, ask any american you know. You do not want to move here!

posted by Mitheral at 9:56 AM on May 1, 2003

As I posted on Warfilter, it's quite unclear from the article what parts of the Patriot Act may have been invoked; and INS has had authority to conduct warrantless raids and arrests even before 9/11, even before the 1996 Immigration Act which broadened their powers. It would certainly be scary to be caught up in such a raid, but the basic authority isn't new and has survived several constitutional challenges (non-citizens have fewer rights than citizens; illegal immigrants even fewer). The authors were not arrested, and after their identities and clean records were verified, they were released, so no constitutional rights were violated. They were in a semi-public place, not their homes, and there is no way that a warrant could precisely identify the occupants of a restaurant even if one were necessary.

Some good skeptical points were raised above that I didn't go into, but I was also very curious about the lack of detail including the name of the restaurant or the nature of the "mistake" involved (bogus tipster? reversed street numbers? individual sought not on duty? no arrests? the judge released everyone?). Rereading the story now there is one detail that stands out in bright neon.

No less than ten officers in suits emerged from the stairwell.... Two of them walked over to our table and identified themselves as officers of the INS and Homeland Security Department.... We were told by the INS agent that we would be released ....

Can you spot the problem?

As of December 10, 2002 the Immigration and Naturalization Service statutorily ceased to exist. Its central functions were transferred March 1st to the sibling agencies Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, under the Department of Homeland Security, with other subagencies such as the Border Patrol moved under other department heads or remaining with the Justice Department. The date given for the raid is March 20, some three weeks after the department had changed its name. Is Halperin suggesting that the department's employees are unaware of their new identity? He makes no mention of the bureau's name change in his article. Perhaps the raid actually took place earlier, and Halperin is fudging the date for unknown reasons? Because if the officers know they're part of the Department of Homeland Security, they also know they're part of the BCIS or more likely the BICE, not the INS. Perhaps they just shouted out "immigration" and this is all his interpretation. What then of his other reportage?

All I can say is that timeline or detail inconsistencies are one of the first signs of deception looked for in criminal investigations. In particular, there are often emotionally telling details mixed with surprising vagueness in other areas. I'm not saying this story is false, but it has some serious credibility problems.
posted by dhartung at 10:02 AM on May 1, 2003

Well, now I'm hoping that I was successfully trolled. 'cause if his story is true, it's just too damn scary.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:09 AM on May 1, 2003

I invoke the Rauch-Reich test. The quotes that this guy attributes to the agents are so outrageous that it's difficult to imagine anyone stating their point of view in such a body-slammable way:

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."

Combine this with the "you are being held under the PATRIOT act" quote (the PATRIOT act does not by itself authorize detentions), the reference to "INS agents" (the INS was disbanded when Homeland Security was created), and other discrepancies noted above, and the burden is shifted to Halperin to prove he's not lying.
posted by profwhat at 10:16 AM on May 1, 2003

Can you spot the problem?

Devil's advocate cause I'm on the skeptical side here, but might DHS agents still identify themselves as INS since that name has meant something in the immigrant community for quite a long time?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:16 AM on May 1, 2003

Have there been any reported incidents of US citizens taking matters into their own hands to clean up terrorists?

Well, a friend of mine from Pakistan was beaten unconscious coming out of a deli. A guy said "are
posted by witchstone at 11:23 AM on May 1, 2003

oops, hit post by mistake.

This was a month after the WTC attacks. A guy said "Are you from Pakistan?" to my friend (although one would think he would ask "are you from Afghanistan?") and then next thing he knew, he woke up in the hospital.
posted by witchstone at 11:25 AM on May 1, 2003

It's called a "pre-emptive strike", witchstone. Don't you watch the news?
posted by Samsonov14 at 11:29 AM on May 1, 2003

If PATRIOT II is passed into law a report like Jason Halperin's article would be punishable by Federal incarceration.

Will it soon be time for Project Disappeared, USA?
posted by Dunvegan at 11:32 AM on May 1, 2003


I have just received a respons from Christopher Scheer
managing editor, alternet.org regarding this article and the concerns raised here and in other forums. I will ask for his permission to post his reply, and will get back with it in case I get his approval.
posted by psychomedia at 11:50 AM on May 1, 2003

Another little something. It may mean nothing; it may have a perfectly innocent explanation. Or it may not.

Date on the alternet article: April 29
Date of events described, per first paragraph: "Two weeks ago"
Date of events described, per second paragraph: March 20th.

It's possible that Halperin wrote and submitted the article in early April, but it only just now got published. (In which case, shame on alternet's editors for not changing the "Two weeks ago," and shame on alternet for taking so long to publish it.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:34 PM on May 1, 2003

Has anyone tried calling every South Asian restaurant or curry house in the area? I agree, this article may not be the best, but the story should be told if it is true. Even if the networks won't touch it, publishing more stories with more sources would be a good thing.

This incident reminds me of many online flame sessions where a person's original comment is completely discredited; not because what was written was wrong, but because so many people said it was wrong. A search for this article brings up a bunch of "leftist" sites, and a bunch of sites where people discredit the article. No conservative is ever going to believe it.

If it's true that PATRIOT II will make these types of reports illegal, then it is extremely important that as many reports get out as soon as possible.
posted by son_of_minya at 1:29 PM on May 1, 2003

Here's the reply I received from AlterNet's managing editor Christopher Scheer concerning Jason Halperin's article. It might be useful background information.


I agree, the story is intense. However, Jason Halperin appears to be a calm, stable source of information and is merely telling his story. The genesis of this piece actually was that he wrote up his experience for his friends at work at Doctors Without Borders. When we got a hold of it, I asked Jason, who I found through Google and who has a public track record of work with Doctors Without Borders (a highly respected institution which won a Nobel Prize a few years back), on the phone if we could publish it and he agreed.

Unfortunately, stories like his are actually being reported all over the country -- but the mainstream media is ignoring them as "anecdotal." Often we can't run them because the victims, usually immigrants, are too scared to go public. Well, Jason's story IS anecdotal, and doesn't claim to be anything more than one person's experience.

Frankly, while I think your skepticism is healthy, I'm not sure why this particularly story is so suspicious. Remember, the events described took place in the first days of the war when the government was raiding, "interviewing" and detaining Muslim immigrants and citizens around the country.

In any case, I stand behind the story, as does Alternet.

Hope this helps.

Christopher Scheer
managing editor, alternet.org

posted by psychomedia at 1:32 PM on May 1, 2003

I can confirm exactly one thing about this story:

The behavior attributed to NYC law enforcement on this story is not typical, but it is very believable. I have seen NYC police of higher ranks bully and beat people without provocation. I have seen a mounted policeman run his horse into an elbow to elbow crowd and severely break an elderly woman's leg. I have seen a NYC policeman push down a 70+ year old nun who was just standing there. Cops here (even the majority of them who are good cops) are *not* touchy-feely.

I realize that the agents/officers described in this story are not NYC-blue cops, but these people can get very, very mean and, shall we say disrespectful of one's rights.

Also, to the poster who made a comment about Times Square area indian restaurants -- there are like 100+ in this area (I work and live here) some of which are very small and non-touristy.

I believe that something like this certainly could happen. After all, we know for a fact that there are raids like this going on (how else could you explain the hundreds of people being held getting to jail) and I think that they probably go more or less like the story related. After all -- that is what a raid is all about. Guns in the face, lots of yelling and maybe beating, telling people to shut up. I mean that's what I'd think would happen.
posted by n9 at 3:25 PM on May 1, 2003

Even if we assume that this did not happen, what precisely prevents it from happening? A raid such as this would be legal under the current laws.
posted by metaforth at 6:51 PM on May 1, 2003

Thanks, n9. What he says is absolutely right, and those of you who think the "quotes that this guy attributes to the agents" are ridiculous have obviously either never dealt with law-enforcement agents or have done so only in contexts where they're on their best behavior. (People married or related to cops always seem to think any accusations of bad behavior are slanderous.) I don't know if the story is true, but it's plausible (as has been suggested, either the agents could have shouted "INS" even though the name has changed or the writer could have assumed they were still in operation), and the fact that it began as something written for Halperin's friends (rather than for publication as a news story) explains some of the lack of specificity. In any case, whether this particular story is accurate in every detail, this sort of thing is happening and will continue to happen, and those of you who smirk and say "ha, more leftist lies" are burying your heads in the sand (as well as what FormlessOne said).
posted by languagehat at 8:21 AM on May 2, 2003

Meanwhile, in Congress:

The Bush administration and leading Senate Republicans sought today to give the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon far-reaching new powers to demand personal and financial records on people in the United States as part of foreign intelligence and terrorism operations, officials said.

The proposal, which was beaten back, would have given the C.I.A. and the military the authority to issue administrative subpoenas — known as "national security letters" — requiring Internet providers, credit card companies, libraries and a range of other organizations to produce materials like phone records, bank transactions and e-mail logs. That authority now rests largely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the subpoenas do not require court approval.

I think it was Twain who said, "no man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session."
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on May 2, 2003

It's in the LA Times now.
posted by muckster at 9:04 AM on May 4, 2003

Not sure if anyone will see this, but I actually know Jason (great guy - I absolutely believe this story but I didn't think my personal relationship would convince any skeptics) and I wrote him a few days ago to see if he had any response to this thread. So for what its worth, he wrote back and asked if this could be posted:

Dear Readers,

I would first like to thank you for reading and taking interest in my story. As we know, the consequences of the latest "anti-terrorism" legislation and the subsequent infringements on our civil liberties are very real. Following my experience in the restaurant, I wanted to inform people about the real-life implications (especially on immigrants) of the Patriot Act. Amazingly, this story began only as an impassioned email to my co-workers and friends.

Within one week the respected on-line magazine Alternet.org posted it on their website in their "rights and liberties" section and one week later the Los Angeles Times published a shortened version as an op-editorial on May 1, 2003. Support for me and opposition to the actions of the Department of Homeland Security has poured in from all over the country and the globe. A man from Argentina recently compared my story to the dark period in his country's history when courageous dissidents "disappeared." And even Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice-President Al Gore, relayed her wishes and support.

With regards to questions of validity, I can only offer a solemn promise that my account is true. Furthermore, before printing the editorial, the Los Angeles Times investigated the story to ensure its accuracy by speaking to other witnesses including the staff of the Indian restaurant.

The harrowing experience in the restaurant opened my eyes to the systematic dismantling of our civil liberties and the rights afforded to immigrants. Yet, the response to what was initially an office email has opened my eyes to the thousands of people who care very deeply about this issue. They have included journalists, school teachers, mothers, social workers, professors, construction workers, doctors and dishwashers -- All committed to protecting the rights we hold so dear.

Thank you again for your overwhelming support. Together, we will rollback these unjust laws.


Jason Halperin

You can read the Article at:

LA Times

posted by buddha9090 at 1:04 PM on May 4, 2003

Repaired links:

LA Times
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:38 AM on May 5, 2003

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