AN ATTACK ON CIVIL LIBERTIES
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759)
Terrorist suspects incarcerated in wire cages at Guantánamo Bay were designated as “detainees.” Since the military base was not on American soil, they were not subjected to United States laws that included due process. Charges were not levied against them, and they stood to be locked up indefinitely. They were denied communication with relatives and friends. They were denied counsel.
The inspector general of the Justice Department acknowledged in June 2003 that “significant problems” arose over the arrest of 762 illegal immigrants in the months after 9/11. The Court of Appeals for Washington D.C. upheld the Justice Department’s decision to withhold their names and other details. (New York Times, June 17, 2003)
Patriot Act I was enacted just weeks after 9/11. Attorney General Ashcroft failed to obtain a provision to suspend habeas corpus that would have denied anyone detained on American soil the right to demand a court hearing to challenge the authority of the Department of Justice.
The legislation bypassed the House Judiciary Committee, and debate was denied on the House and Senate floor. It was signed into law on October 26.
Patriot Act I provided the following:
1. Authorities could search an individual’s home without one’s knowledge or consent.
2. Librarians and booksellers were required to report what books a person had borrowed or bought.
3. Law enforcement agencies were authorized to wiretap and monitor Internet use whenever intelligence gathering constituted a ‘significant purpose’ of the surveillance.
4. Authorities could listen in to some attorney-client conversations.
5. Citizens could be monitored simply by using pay telephones used by terrorists.
6. The INS was handed unchecked ability to detain aliens for up to seven days without charges. If the Attorney General continued to detain an individual after seven days, the bill limited the suspect’s ability to appeal the detention.
7. Grand juries could share sensitive information to be shared by other agencies.
8. The attorney general could incarcerate or detain non-citizens based on mere suspicion. He could deny re-admission to the United States of non-citizens for engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment.
9. It expanded the ability of the government to conduct secret searches in anti-terrorism and routine criminal investigations unrelated to terrorism. Law enforcement authorities could enter and search an individual’s home without presenting a warrant or in any way informing the subject of the search.
10. The attorney general and the secretary of state were given power to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations and to block any non-citizen who belongs to them from entering the country.
11. It made the payment of membership dues to political organizations a deportable offense.
12. The FBI was granted broad access to sensitive medical, financial, mental health, and educational records about individuals without having to show evidence of a crime and without a court order.
13. It authorized searches of highly personal financial records without notice and without judicial review based on a very low standard that does not require probable cause of a crime or even relevancy to an ongoing terrorism investigation.
14. Student records could be searched based on a very low standard of relevancy to an investigation.
15. It created a broad new definition of “domestic terrorism” that could target people who engaged in acts of political protest and subject them to wiretapping and enhanced penalties. (The Nation, October 26, 2001; Washington Post, September 18, 2001 and September 25, 2001)
USA Patriot Act II was an 87-page document drafted by the Department of Justice. On February 10, 2003, a House version was secretly delivered to House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The DOJ claimed that the documents were merely for study and that there was no intention to try and pass it immediately. (www.infowars.com, February 10, 2003)
Whereas Patriot Act I only erased much of the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and seriously damaged the Seventh and the Tenth, Patriot Act II reorganized the entire federal government as well as many areas of state government under the control of the Justice Department, the Office of Homeland Security, and FEMA NORTHCOM military command.
USA Patriot Act II:
1. Designated individual terrorists as foreign powers and stripped them of all rights under the “enemy combatant” designation.
2. Allowed the federal government to use wartime martial law powers domestically and internationally without Congress declaring that a state of war existed.
3. Provided that government agents must be given immunity for carrying out searches with no prior court approval.
4. Allowed secret star chamber courts to issue contempt charges against any individual or corporation who refused to incriminate themselves or others.
5. Removed the five-year “sunset” clause from other subsections of Patriot Act I.
6. Restated that the government no longer needed warrants and that the investigations could be a giant dragnet-style sweep.
7. Granted the government the right to invade the entire spectrum of public and private sector information from bank records to educational and medical records.
8. Allowed states the power to examine everything to “determine” if individuals or groups might have a connection to terrorist groups. It allowed the government to takeover coroners’ and medical examiners’ operations at any time.
9. Allowed the federal government to place gag orders on federal and state grand juries and to take over the proceedings.
10. Destroyed the whistleblower protection for federal agents.
11. Allowed private corporations to produce a “worst case scenario” report detailing the effect that the release of these controlled substances would have on the surrounding community.
12. Authorized the creation of a DNA database on “suspected terrorists” to include association with suspected terrorist groups, and non-citizens suspected of certain crimes or of having supported any group designated as terrorist.
13. Established that an American citizen could be expatriated “if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a ‘terrorist organization.’ ”
14. Authorized the president “to establish tribunals for the trial of individuals suspected of being involved in 9/11.
The Universal National Service Act of 2003 (S-89 and HR-163) was introduced to both houses on January 7, 2003. It provided for a mandatory subscription into the armed forcers for males between the ages of 18 and 26.
Two months after 9/11, Bush issued an executive order authorizing special military tribunals to try suspected terrorists. With a stroke of a pen, Bush bypassed all constitutional checks and balances, expanding the executive branch’s authority in law enforcement powers in ways that were intended to bypass Congress and the courts.
The tribunals would be used to secretly try non-American citizens suspected of terrorism who were captured overseas. The trials would be carried out secretly. Defendants would not be subject to judicial review. If found guilty, only two judges would have to agree to issue the death penalty which, also, would be conducted secretly. (New York Times, November 15, 2001)
In December 2002, Bush expanded a list of terrorist leaders the CIA was authorized to kill. The previously undisclosed CIA list included key Al Qaeda leaders like Bin Laden and his chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as other principal figures from Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist groups. (New York Times, December 15, 2002)
On October 1, 2001, Bush signed an executive order allowing either the White House or former presidents or vice presidents to veto the release of their presidential papers. This was a windfall for George Herbert Bush whose documents linking him to Iran-Contra and the Christmas Eve pardons would never be released.
The Terrorism Information and Prevention (TIPS) was formed under Bush to spy on Americans and to feed that information into a centralized database. (Washington Post, August 11, 2002)
The Office of Homeland Security was proposed by Bush on June 6, 2002. However, a similar organization, the Institute for Homeland Security, was created by two Democrats much earlier in October 1999 -- well before the terrorist attacks on American soil.
The Homeland Security bill included pork legislation that benefited corporate America:
1. Liability protection was provided for Eli Lilly, manufacturer of thimerosal -- a mercury-based additive to vaccines that might be linked to autism in children. Eli Lilly contributed more than $1.5 million to congressional candidates in the 2002 election cycle, and Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, was formerly its president of North American operations. The windfall for Eli Lilly was no surprise, since Sidney Taurel, its CEO, was a member of the Homeland Security advisory board. (New York Times, November 19, 2002)
2. The government was prohibited from signing contracts with companies that moved their headquarters offshore to avoiding paying United States taxes.
3. The Homeland Security Research Center program was approved for Texas A&M University, home to the Bushes and the George Herbert Bush Presidential Library. (New York Times, November 19, 2002)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), part of the Department of Defense, was established in January 2002. Bush named retired Rear Admiral John Poindexter to head DARPA. Poindexter served as National Security Advisor in the Reagan-Bush administration and was convicted in 1990 on five felony counts of misleading Congress and making false statements regarding Iran-Contra. Later, an appeals court overturned the verdict.
DARPA served as a research and development project which developed advanced computerized battlefield sensor networks to shorten the time between when an enemy target was located and when it was attacked. One goal was to improve methods to identify potentially dangerous people by using video cameras and biometrics and to predict and prevent terrorist attacks. (New York Times, February 13, 2002; Washington Post, November 16, 2002)