In a five-four ruling a few days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time.
This decision is in keeping with other recent legal dispositions: the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the "trespass bill", which gives a person a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near a building or a place with Secret Service protection. Both are repressive measures targeting the Occupy Wall Street movement.
On these laws, US political consultant and feminist writer Naomi Wolf published an essay with the title How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses, inc which she analyzes the reach and purposes of this legislation.
The writer says that in a situation where anyone can be arrested for walking a dog without a leash, what Albert Florence, the citizen who brought the initial suit against the government for these laws, narrates is alarming.
Florence denounced that he was stopped for a driving infraction, and described having been told to “turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks.” He said he felt humiliated: "It made me feel like less of a man."
History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state is a typical practice of fascism and of any kind of oppressive regime that uses degradation as a means of controlling and subduing populations. Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down their sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing their powerlessness.
“One of the most terrifying moments for me,” writes Naomi Wolf, “when I visited Guantanamo prison in 2009 was seeing the way the architecture of the building positioned glass-fronted shower cubicles facing intentionally right into the central atrium – where young female guards stood watch over the forced nakedness of Muslim prisoners, who had no way to conceal themselves.”
“I have watched male police and TSA (Transportation Security Administration, the border police) members standing by side by side salaciously observing women as they have been "patted down" in airports. I believe that these searches are designed to psychologically habituate US citizens to a condition in which they are demeaned and sexually intruded upon by the state – at any moment.”
“One of my Facebook commentators suggested that more women are about to be found liable for arrest for petty reasons. I found that the genital groping that is obligatory in the US is illegal in Britain.”
“Where are we headed with these recent laws criminalizing protest, and giving local police – who, let's recall, are now infused with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) money, military hardware and personnel – powers to terrify and traumatize people who have not gone through due process or trial?”
Wolf ridicules the reasoning of a Supreme Court judge who said these practices are necessary to prevent terrorist acts. She asks, “Can anyone imagine that the means to blow up the Twin Towers could have been concealed in a body cavity? Or could any of the authors of that terrorist act have been discovered while being stopped for speeding?
According to a report published by the Washington Post, quoted by Wolf, in 2010 there were 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that worked on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. There were 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, and in Washington, DC, and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011.
“This enormous new sector of the economy has a multi-billion-dollar vested interest in setting up a system to surveil, physically intimidate and prey upon the rest of American society. Now, with the new legislation, they can do so by threatening to demean you sexually – a potent tool in the hands of any bully,” concludes Naomi Wolf.
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
*Manuel E. Yepe is a lawyer, economist and journalist. He is a professor at the Higher Institute of International Relations in Havana. He was Cuba's ambassador to Romania, general director of the Prensa Latina agency; vice president of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television; founder and national director of the Technological Information System (TIPS) of the United Nations Program for Development in Cuba, and secretary of the Cuban Movement for the Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples.
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