Last night I read a document that turned my blood to ice.
The document I am referring to was created by John Ashcroft last month and presently exists in draft form. It is called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. It has thus far been given to only two members of congress that I know of, the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and Vice-President Cheney as President Pro-Tem of the Senate.
This, in itself, is highly unusual, as draft legislation is routinely distributed to the appropriate congressional committees. The first page of the document is marked "Confidential--Not For Distribution." It is clear that an attempt is being made to conceal this bill from congress until the "right moment." This tactic is consistent with the closed administration of George W. Bush, which seeks to avoid even legally required contact with congress.
Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana, a conservative Republican, the Chairman of the Committee on Government Reform, said recently, "an iron veil is descending over the executive branch."
But why conceal this? What is the moment that they are waiting for? It is chillingly clear: When we are living in abject fear due to a horrible new terrorist attack, this bill, which effectively wrecks American freedom, is going to be brought forward?and just yesterday, as I write this, the president announced that such an attack could happen at any time.
On February 7, the Justice Department, reacting to the leak of the document to the Center for Public Integrity, explained its secretiveness by referring to it as "an idea or proposal that is still being discussed at staff level." But it is not a proposal. It is an actual, complete bill, fully referenced and annotated, ready to be presented. Normally, this is the form that would have been circularized to the appropriate congressional committees.
There is no national security reason to hide this document. It is not classified and the Justice Department has no legal grounds to suppress it in the way that is being attempted.
Under any circumstances other than a fearsome national emergency, Republicans and Democrats alike would unite to oppose this monstrous piece of legislation. Indeed, it is so abhorrent that, even under the direst circumstances, it might not pass. To pass this bill is to give up on our republic, on its constitution, indeed, it is to give up on America. The sad part is that its authors, the White House and the Justice Department, must already have done that, or it never would have been written. The mission of government at a time like this is to preserve our freedom while ensuring our security, not to destroy freedom in favor of security. In fact, if they destroy freedom here, if history and the experience of other countries counts at all anymore, we will not enjoy security, either.
Among many other things, this new bill enables the Attorney General by fiat to revoke the citizenship of anybody found to have ever contributed money to or participated in any organization the Justice Department deems to be a terrorist group. This means that the Attorney General can simply take away your citizenship if it decides that some group you once gave fifty dollars to was, even though unknown to you, a terrorist organization. The bill does not require any particular definition of that term. It's up to the Attorney General to decide.
This means that an appointed federal bureaucrat will have the power to strip you of your citizenship at will. Even if he does not use this power unwisely, it so degrades the value of citizenship as to demean and hold in contempt the validity of our national being, of our traditional valuation of the person, even of the Declaration of Independence, which states that human beings ?are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights." Endowed by God, not by the state, and most certainly not revocable even by congress, let alone John Ashcroft. It could strip citizenship even from people whose association with condemned groups had been entirely lawful. And there is no provision requiring the government to prove that the individual knew that the group was engaged in terrorist activities.
The bill also authorizes secret arrests. Never in the history of our country has such a thing been countenanced. It is a horrifying reminder of the way people used to disappear into the night and fog in Nazi Germany--but, as I point out below, it's actually even worse than the infamous 'Night and Fog' edict of the Nazis.
Making arrest secret removes due process from the equation. More terrifyingly, people may be held under secret arrest without access to any outside contacts?and if their citizenship has been revoked, presumably held indefinitely without trial.
It gives the government the right to deport any foreign national whose presence it decides is damaging to our economic interests, without regard for his visa status at the time of deportation. It does not require the government to explain its action to anybody, and excludes any sort of effective due process. Again, even though this provision applies only to noncitizens, it degrades the value of the United States as a free society by enabling the government to intervene in the lives of inhabitants without regard to our traditional respect for the person. It does not require that there be a finding of terrorist activity at all, but simply that the person's presence causes an economic hardship of some unspecified kind. In other words, it allows the deportation of lawfully present aliens without explanation or recourse.
The surveillance provisions are nothing short of fantastic. The bill gives the government the right to bypass courts and grand juries entirely and conduct unfettered surveillance without any judicial oversight, or even judicial knowledge. It simply opens the door to unrestricted surveillance, furthering the provisions of the Patriot Act that led to the creation of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's blanket surveillance of all records pertaining to American citizens, whether in public or private hands.
After this bill is passed, if it is, no speech at all, whether it is uttered in an email or whispered in bed, will remain sacred from secret surveillance, uncontrolled by the courts and not subject to due process.
There is little evidence that the destruction of privacy that has already taken place, and is now contemplated, will protect us against terrorism. In fact, even if the Patriot Act had been in force prior to 9/11, none of its provisions would have led to the discovery of any terrorists. To the contrary, both the Patriot Act and the new Domestic Security Enhancement Act, have degraded our national ability to be responsive to terrorism by exposing even citizens interested in informing the government of possible terrorist activities to arbitrary surveillance and possible prosecution.
Who, upon discovering that a charitable group to which they had contributed was engaging in terrorist planning, would inform the government? After the passage of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, nobody in their right mind--not and risk the arbitrary cancellation of one?s citizenship for having innocently contributed to the organization in the first place.
The great difference that I have felt in my life between free countries and dictatorships has been a sense of concealed danger. I felt it in Franco's Spain. I used to feel it in Mexico, when the PRI was ruling with the hand of fear. I feel it now in my homeland.
But the Domestic Security Enhancement Act does not end with the destruction of personal rights. It also invades states rights and attacks areas of public safety that have been a part of the American scene for decades. For example, it repeals provisions of environmental laws that require chemical companies to inform local government of what they are working with in their factories. It does this under the grotesque guise of national security, but this is a provision that the chemical industry has been lobbying to repeal since long before 9/11. It means that, if a chemical plant should explode in a community, that community will have no way of knowing whether or not the smoke from the explosion is dangerous. Local government will not be able to mandate effective safety plans. And chemical plants explode frequently enough to make the rollback of this important safety provision a very real and immediate danger.
The way that this act is being handled by the administration is of the greatest possible concern. It could not be more clear that the White House and the Justice Department know that it will be spectacularly unpopular. Indeed, I don?t think that it would receive the vote of any true patriot, surely not the conservative Republicans, hopefully not the Democrats, although that remains to be seen, given that both groups voted overwhelmingly for the Patriot Act--some of them, as they now admit, without really reading it.
Now that this latest attack on freedom has been leaked, it is to be hoped that they will read it before they vote.
That leaves the Republicans who can be absolutely counted on by the Administration: about half of the Republican senators and a bare majority of the House Republicans, who will vote for the act no matter what. Not enough to pass it.
The Administration obviously knows this, and this is why there has been an attempt to hide this bill, presumably either until we are at war with Iraq, or, more terrifyingly, until another great terrorist incident sends American blood flowing in the streets.
There is a particularly chilling reason why we should be concerned about the tactic the Justice Department has used. It suggests that the administration may already know that an attack is definitely going to occur, and may be blocking law enforcement from preventing it, in order to use the terror to get this latest rollback of our freedoms accomplished.
It breaks my heart to have to say this, but, in fact, it is just such an action that may have allowed 911 to happen, thus opening the door to the Patriot Act--a strategy chillingly similar to the one Hitler used to open Germany to the laws that became the foundation of his dictatorship. He burned the German parliament building and blamed it on a communist insurrection, then used the danger presented to convince the Germans that it would be a good idea to give up their freedoms--temporarily, of course.
But surely not in America. No president would allow a terrorist act to go forward in order to justify the theft of our freedoms?
But there is substantial evidence that this happened, and is probably why the president has been so unwilling-- fantastically and inexcusably--to investigate 911. Imagine, the worst attack on the United States homeland in history, and the White House has OPPOSED an investigation of it!
Why? We are going to find out why on Dreamland on Saturday.
This Saturday, there will appear on Dreamland an interview with Nafeez Ahmed, the author of the War on Freedom: How and Why America was Attacked September 11, 2001.
Mr. Ahmed is a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent. He is a highly respected scholar and an expert on US foreign policy, and not in any way involved in Moslem fundamentalism or the support of terrorism or terrorist states. Nonetheless, many people will be suspicious of him because he is a Muslim. The suspicion is misplaced. His credentials are impeccable and his scholarship is clear, objective and thorough.
His book is a carefully drawn analysis of just what happened before, during and after the 9/11 attack. It makes for bone-chilling reading, because the evidence is overwhelming, on the face of the public record, that the intelligence community was richly informed of the probability that a terrorist attack would take place in lower Manhattan around September 11. What is even more damning, FAA mandated Standard Operating Procedures requiring jets to be scrambled on discovery that an aircraft has been hijacked over the United States were willfully and intentionally ignored, even to the extent of jets that had been scrambled being turned back on orders from the White House, and jets sent to the World Trade Center ordered to fly at 1/3rd their capable speeds, apparently so that there would be no chance of their timely arrival.
It is no wonder that the President so long opposed any investigation into the 9/11 tragedy, and only unwillingly convened a commission to carry out this essential activity. Even so, he first nominated Henry Kissinger to head the commission, knowing, no doubt, that he could certainly be counted on to obfuscate. The public outcry was so great that Kissinger was forced to step down, but so far the commission has done little, and it is unlikely that the government will ever tell the truth--at least, not the present government.
There could be blameless reasons why the president intervened on 9/11 in order to keep fighters away from the hijacked planes. Among them, a shoot down over populated areas might have been of great concern. But there is no excuse for the intentional blocking of information, for example, from the computer of Zacharias Moussaui, which was done by FBI officials prior to 9/11, or of the many other failures of intelligence that have been so extensively commented upon in the press.
Attorney David Shippers, the former Chief Investigative Counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, and the prosecutor responsible for conducting the Clinton impeachment, went public two weeks after 9/11 saying that he had attempted to warn the administration of the coming attack, having received information from FBI agents who had been blocked from acting on it from within the FBI.
He was rebuffed by Ashcroft, who even refused the requests of close mutual friends to see him. Ashcroft obviously did not want it on the record that he had heard what Mr. Shippers had to say. What other reason for the Attorney General of the United States to refuse even to listen to a man of high prestige and political standing in his own party, and a friend, who came to warn of an extremely serious danger to the country?
The War on Freedom makes an overwhelmingly powerful case for 9/11 being more than a failure of analysis or investigation. It appears from the record that there was a clear official awareness than an attack was imminent, that it would involve airliners being flown into buildings, and that the World Trade Center was a likely target. It also appears beyond question that at least one important route of investigation was personally blocked by John Ashcroft, when he refused to see Schippers.
Frankly, Ahmed's book is devastating. It is not speculative at all. Every claim is backed up by facts that are part of the public record. Frankly, I have never read such a devastating book.
When I saw what had been done to us, to humanity's most precious receptacle of freedom, to the nation that was until so very recently the hope of the world, my eyes filled with tears of rage and frustration.
And now we see, in embryonic form, another situation developing that might well be used, as 9/11 was apparently used, to further degrade and compromise American freedoms. If there is a horrendous terrorist attack on our country in the next few weeks or months, and a similar lack of official will to act to prevent it, and then the Domestic Security Enhancement Act is placed before a terrified and now-compliant congress, then, in my opinion, the conclusion will be inescapable: the United States of America will have ceased to be a free nation, and the first American dictatorship will be under way.
Will it ever be possible to end the dictatorship? Perhaps not with the vote. Look at what the Civil Rights Commission, the New York Times and the BBC said about the 2000 Florida vote: there was methodical disenfranchisement of many thousands of voters. As matters stand, George W. Bush received a minority of the votes cast nationwide, but still gained office.
Now, we find that voting machines, for example, in Nebraska, are owned by companies controlled by candidates who received upset victories in the midterm election. To read more about this outrageous situation, click here.
If the vote is lost to us, and our leadership is willing to manipulate us using terror attacks that kill thousands, where will it end for the United States of America?
The new act is not intended to prevent terrorism, not if we are to take the president at his word. He has said that the destruction of Saddam Hussein's regime is to reduce the threat of terrorism. So why have a bill waiting in the wings to combat terrorism at a time when terrorism is supposed to be on the wane?
Because the bill has nothing to do with combating terrorism, and everything to do with stealing our freedoms under the pretext of a national emergency, or through the creation of a false national emergency. It is not about protecting us. It is about capturing us.
I called the present bill a terror worse than the Nazi 'Night and Fog' edict that established secret arrest throughout the German Reich of 1941. To read the decree this is the ancestor of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, that caused people all over Europe to disappear into the German enforcement apparatus, click here. Reflect that it is in one crucial way NOT as draconian as the DSEA. Provision III does not go as far as the proposed act. It requires the authorities to tell inquiring parties that victims have been arrested. The secret arrest provisions in the DSEA offer no such relief. Under the DSEA, people will disappear without a word to anybody.
To read the proposed bill, click here.
To read the Center for Public Integrity's article on the bill, click here.
What can you do? Speak out! Send the URL for this Journal to whomever you think may benefit from it. Write your Representative and your Senator. It still matters. It's up to you to keep it that way.
NOTE: This Journal entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.