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Last December, Peter Watts was arrested at the US-Canada border crossing. DarkSyde wrote about it here. Because he is a writer of some renown, and because he has friends who know how to get things done, we all know about what happened to him.

He was treated violently and disrespectfully by the US border guards because he asked what was going on and then did not comply fast enough when ordered to get back in his car.

Last Saturday, Cory Doctrow wrote that Peter Watts was convicted of obstruction. Here's a little more from David Nickle's blog:

under cross-examination by Mullkoff, the border guards had conceded that Peter hadn't assaulted anyone; hadn't threatened to assault anyone; and that his aggressive stance was nothing any reasonable person would consider aggressive. The allegations that he had somehow choked border guard Andrew Beaudry while Beaudry was hitting him, were demolished. The only choking going on is mine right now, typing that Beaudry was merely somehow mistaken when he accused Peter of being a strangler.

And yet, he faces a possible two years in prison. I'll let David Nickle tell you why:

Because, there is this statute - that essentially criminalizes non-compliance to such a broad degree that asking a question (as Peter did) before complying with an order from a border guard is a felony.

I'll give Cory Doctrow the floor now because he is the reason I am writing this diary. I read his post on BoingBoing about this nearly a week ago. For a week it's been an open tab on my computer. For a week I have been speechless about this injustice because it's just too horrifying to me.

That's apparently the statute: if you don't comply fast enough with a customs officer, he can beat you, gas you, jail you and then imprison you for two years. This isn't about safety, it isn't about security, it isn't about the rule of law.

It's about obedience.

Authoritarianism is a disease of the mind. It criminalizes the act of asking "why?" It is the obedience-sickness that turns good people into perpetrators and victims of atrocities great and small.

A few days ago I was driving in orange county and I saw an SUV in front of me that had a sign taped to the back window. I know what it takes to tape a sign to your back window because I did it after the elections in 2004. My sign said, "It was all about the family values in Nazi Germany, too." This sign talked about the loss of liberty which occurs when the government takes over healthcare. I keep thinking about that person. I'm guessing they feel sad and shocked that their country is not what they believed it was if it can pass healthcare reform. And yet, they talk about liberty while the atmosphere they presumably voted in threatens to steal two years of freedom from a human being who questioned a border guard.

Actions? Tell your wingnut relatives about this one, and ask them if they think it's reasonable. Buy his book. Donate to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Sit and cry for a few minutes at the mess we are in.

Update: Friendlystranger diaried this on the 20th.

Originally posted to Renee on Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 01:19 PM PDT.

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