So here we go, military law rules the land. In the name of a fictitious war on terrorism, America is no longer the land of the free. Security trumps liberty in the new security state. Only the House of Representatives stands in the way of the President and his desire to make permanent the law that would exempt the communications media that have placed us all under surveillance, illegally in the past. He wants to make it permanent so that citizens have no right to contest this. Call or write or email your Congressperson tell them not to give the government the right to place us under surveillance with impunity.
Rule by fear or rule by law?
Lewis Seiler,Dan Hamburg
Monday, February 4, 2008
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“The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.”
- Winston Churchill, Nov. 21, 1943
Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse in the event of “an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs.”
Beginning in 1999, the government has entered into a series of single-bid contracts with Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) to build detention camps at undisclosed locations within the United States. The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.
According to diplomat and author Peter Dale Scott, the KBR contract is part of a Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of “all removable aliens” and “potential terrorists.”
Fraud-busters such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, have complained about these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars should not go to taxpayer-gouging Halliburton. But the real question is: What kind of “new programs” require the construction and refurbishment of detention facilities in nearly every state of the union with the capacity to house perhaps millions of people?
Sect. 1042 of the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,” gives the executive the power to invoke martial law. For the first time in more than a century, the president is now authorized to use the military in response to “a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, a terrorist attack or any other condition in which the President determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”
The Military Commissions Act of 2006, rammed through Congress just before the 2006 midterm elections, allows for the indefinite imprisonment of anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on a list of “terrorist” organizations, or who speaks out against the government’s policies. The law calls for secret trials for citizens and noncitizens alike.
Also in 2007, the White House quietly issued National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD-51), to ensure “continuity of government” in the event of what the document vaguely calls a “catastrophic emergency.” Should the president determine that such an emergency has occurred, he and he alone is empowered to do whatever he deems necessary to ensure “continuity of government.” This could include everything from canceling elections to suspending the Constitution to launching a nuclear attack. Congress has yet to hold a single hearing on NSPD-51.
U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice (Los Angeles County) has come up with a new way to expand the domestic “war on terror.” Her Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR1955), which passed the House by the lopsided vote of 404-6, would set up a commission to “examine and report upon the facts and causes” of so-called violent radicalism and extremist ideology, then make legislative recommendations on combating it.
According to commentary in the Baltimore Sun, Rep. Harman and her colleagues from both sides of the aisle believe the country faces a native brand of terrorism, and needs a commission with sweeping investigative power to combat it.
A clue as to where Harman’s commission might be aiming is the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a law that labels those who “engage in sit-ins, civil disobedience, trespass, or any other crime in the name of animal rights” as terrorists. Other groups in the crosshairs could be anti-abortion protesters, anti-tax agitators, immigration activists, environmentalists, peace demonstrators, Second Amendment rights supporters … the list goes on and on. According to author Naomi Wolf, the National Counter terrorism Center holds the names of roughly 775,000 “terror suspects” with the number increasing by 20,000 per month.
What could the government be contemplating that leads it to make contingency plans to detain without recourse millions of its own citizens?
The Constitution does not allow the executive to have unchecked power under any circumstances. The people must not allow the president to use the war on terrorism to rule by fear instead of by law.
Lewis Seiler is the president of Voice of the Environment, Inc. Dan Hamburg, a former congressman, is executive director.
This article appeared on page B - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle
And then there is this…
Senate Authorizes Broad Expansion Of Surveillance Act
Sen. Christopher Bond (R-Mo.) speaks to reporters about the chamber’s expansion of the surveillance act. At right is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (By Dennis Cook — Associated Press)
Who’s Blogging» Links to this article
By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 13, 2008; Page A01
The Senate yesterday approved a sweeping measure that would expand the government’s clandestine surveillance powers, delivering a key victory to the White House by approving immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that cooperated with intelligence agencies in domestic spying after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Senate Authorizes Broad Expansion Of Surveillance Act
On a 68 to 29 vote, the Senate approved the reauthorization of a law that would give the government greater powers to eavesdrop in terrorism and intelligence cases without obtaining warrants from a secret court.
The Senate’s action, days before a temporary surveillance law expires Friday, sets up a clash with House Democrats, who have previously approved legislation that does not contain immunity for the telecommunications industry. The chambers have been locked in a standoff over the immunity provision since the House vote Nov. 15, with President Bush demanding the protection for the industry.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said the president “will not sign another extension” of the temporary law, a decision that could force congressional leaders to reconcile their differences this week.
“The House is risking national security by delaying action,” Fratto said. “It’s increasingly clear Congress will not act until it has to, and a second extension will only lead to a third.”
But House leaders vowed again yesterday to oppose the telecom immunity provision until the White House releases more information about the controversial warrant less surveillance program it initiated shortly after the terrorist attacks.
Bush applauded the Senate bill and warned House Democrats to put aside “narrow partisan concerns” on the immunity issue and approve the Senate’s version.
“This good bill passed by the Senate provides a long-term foundation for our intelligence community to monitor the communications of foreign terrorists in ways that are timely and effective and that also protect the liberties of Americans,” Bush said.
The House and Senate bills both include major revisions to the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to issue warrants for domestic spying on suspects in terrorism and intelligence cases. The National Security Agency, however, secretly bypassed the court for years as it obtained information from telecommunication companies, until media reports revealed the arrangement.
The most important change approved by the Senate yesterday would make permanent a law approved last August that expanded the government’s authority to intercept — without a court order — the phone calls and e-mails of people in the United States communicating with others overseas. U.S. intelligence agencies previously had broad leeway to monitor the communications of foreign terrorism suspects but needed warrants to monitor calls intercepted in the United States, regardless of where they originated.
The House and Senate versions of the new FISA provisions differ slightly, but leaders on both sides acknowledged that the major stumbling block is immunity for the telecommunications industry, which faces dozens of lawsuits for providing personal information to intelligence agencies without warrants.
Senate Democrats’ split on immunity echoes past party divisions over national security issues, including how strongly to confront Bush on the tools the administration uses to target suspected terrorists and their allies.
“This is the right way to go, in terms of the security of the nation,” said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the intelligence committee, which wrote the Senate bill.
Rockefeller was one of 17 Democrats who joined 49 Republicans and one independent to reject an amendment offered by Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) that would have stripped the immunity provision from the bill.
Two-thirds of the Democratic caucus opposed immunity. “It is inconceivable that any telephone companies that allegedly cooperated with the administration’s warrant less wiretapping program did not know what their obligations were. And it is just as implausible that those companies believed they were entitled to simply assume the lawfulness of a government request for assistance,” said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who co-sponsored the amendment.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is locked in a tight race with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for the Democratic presidential nomination, opposed immunity for the industry, along with the entire elected Democratic leadership team. Clinton, who has publicly opposed immunity in the past, was campaigning during yesterday’s primaries and did not attend the vote.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the front-runner for the GOP nomination, supported the overall bill and the immunity provision. Neither Clinton nor Obama was on hand for the vote on final passage of the bill. McCain was.
Congressional leaders have until Friday — when a two-week extension of the temporary law that authorizes expanded surveillance powers expires — to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions. House Democratic leaders introduced a bill for another 21-day extension of the law, the Protect America Act, to provide sufficient time.
Republican leaders in both chambers have pushed for passage of the Senate bill without a House-Senate conference.
“I don’t think there’s a need to do a conference. This bill has been vetted and vetted and vetted,” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Republican whip.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, warned Democrats not to expect a softening of the administration’s position.
“I think the Democrats would be making a mistake if they felt the president was not going to be serious about vetoing any further extension or insisting that the immunity provisions be in there,” Smith said.
But House Democratic leaders continued pushing for more information about the warrant less spying that telephone companies aided after the 2001 attacks.
Available documents on the program “raise important questions, and it will take some time to gather enough information to make a determination on the issue of retroactive immunity,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) said yesterday.
Staff writer Michael Abramowitz and washingtonpost.com staff writer Ben Pershing contributed to this report.