Homeland Security Department Must Be Open and Accountable
Over the past few months, Congress has been diligently working to come to an agreement and make President Bush's proposal for the new Homeland Security Department a reality. Both the House and the Senate have made substantial improvements to the President's original plan, which lacked some of the most essential checks and balances necessary to ensure that this vast new department respects civil liberties.
Unfortunately, these advances are being threatened by an alternative proposal introduced by Senators Phil Gramm (R-TX) and Zell Miller (D-GA) as an amendment to H.R. 5005, the "Homeland Security Act." Among other things, the Gramm/Miller alternative fails to include any mechanism to protect civil rights. It also fails to prohibit the implementation of the Administration's plan for a citizen spy network. In essence this legislation would turn back the clock on the progress that has been made and authorize the President's original sweeping proposal.
Strong oversight and public accountability must accompany any plan to create a new cabinet-level agency, especially one that will include roughly 180,000 employees, including 74,300 armed federal agents. Under the Gramm/Miller bill, however, the new Department would be an unaccountable bureaucracy shrouded in secrecy and lacking basic oversight.
Urge Your Senators to Oppose the Gramm/Miller Alternative!
The Gramm/Miller bill abandons civil rights oversight.
Given the enormous potential power of the proposed agency, strong internal oversight of civil rights and privacy must be a central part of the agency. This dangerous legislation includes no means by which to investigate or remedy wrongdoing. This bill creates an agency essentially accountable to no one.
The Gramm/Miller alternative ignores public concern over TIPS.
The House bill, H.R. 5005, includes provisions barring the government from implementing a controversial neighbor-on-neighbor spy network called the Terrorism Information Prevention System (TIPS). Gramm/Miller contains no provision barring or limiting the scope of TIPS, a program that makes a mockery of individual privacy and encourages racial profiling.
Gramm/Miller will erase the work of both the House and the Senate to include necessary checks and balances within the new Homeland Security Department.
Both Chambers of Congress have worked hard on homeland security, resulting in substantial progress on the civil rights, open government and accountability issues. This progress must not be sacrificed to the desire simply to enact any bill, especially one that fails to protect so many of the very things that make this country great.
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