If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention
An analysis of the passage of the Homeland Security Act
I am still in complete shock and disbelief at the passage of the Homeland Security Act on Tuesday November 19th, 2002 with only 9 senators (8 democrats and 1 independent) voting against it. After only 30 hours of debate the Senate overwhelmingly passed the most significant piece of legislation in the past 50 years. A 475 page document that probably none of them had read entirely.
Oddly, it's been conservative republicans that have had the loudest voices opposing the bill. William Saffire (a right wing columnist) and Ron Paul (a republican congressman from Texas) both wrote pieces talking about the danger of this legislation. Some excerpts from Paul:
The list of dangerous and unconstitutional powers granted to the new Homeland Security department is lengthy. Warrantless searches, forced vaccinations of whole communities, federal neighborhood snitch programs, federal information databases, and a sinister new "Information Awareness Office" at the Pentagon that uses military intelligence to spy on domestic citizens are just a few of the troubling aspects of the new legislation.
Safire had the following to say:
Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend ? all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."
To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you ? passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the F.B.I., your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance ? and you have the supersnoop's dream: a "Total Information Awareness" about every U.S. citizen.
Senator Byrd was one of he few vocal opponents in the Senate. His comments are worth reading in full but here are some highlights:
[This bill] has not been before any committee. There have been no hearings on this bill. There have been no witnesses who were asked to appear to testify on behalf of the bill or in opposition to it. It did not undergo any such scrutiny... We are going to have 30 hours of debate. That is it, 30 hours... And this is one of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation I have seen in my 50 years. I will have been in Congress 50 years come January 3... Never have I seen such a monstrous piece of legislation sent to this body. And we are being asked to vote on that 484 pages tomorrow. Our poor staffs were up most of the night studying it. They know some of the things that are in there, but they don't know all of them. It is a sham and it is a shame... We are all complicit in going along with it. I read in the paper that nobody will have the courage to vote against it. Well, ROBERT BYRD is going to vote against it because I don't know what I am voting for.
As far as I'm concerned one of the best reasons to vote against legislation is not knowing what you are voting for. I only wish more senators had possessed the same courage. Byrd goes on to mention the fact that all intelligence agencies issued statements that ?there is an imminent risk of another terrorist attack? the day this bill was passed and put hospitals on ?notice of a possible terrorist threat.? Like most everything this administration has been involved with, these threats constitute an impressive and suspiciously convenient distraction from the actions of the government. Byrd also blasts the effectiveness of this legislation to actually delivery what it is promising by stating, ?This bill does nothing--not a thing--to make our citizens more secure today or tomorrow.?
Of course, many of the criticisms that can be offered of the Homeland Security Act are also valid of the USA Patriot Act. To a certain extent the Homeland Security Act is just further cementing the loss of civil liberties and expanding the definition of terrorism so that it can be used in any circumstance. Another dissenting senator, Senator Feingold has this to say about the USA Patriot Act:
There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch terrorists. If we lived in a country where police were allowed to search your home at any time for any reason; if we lived in a country where the government is entitled to open your mail, eavesdrop on your phone conversations, or intercept your e-mail communications; if we lived in a country where people could be held in jail indefinitely based on what they write or think, or based on mere suspicion that they are up to no good, the government would probably discover more terrorists or would-be terrorists, just as it would find more lawbreakers generally. But that wouldn't be a country in which we would want to live.
Unfortunately for Feingold, we are moving with increased speed toward the country that he believes he wouldn't want to live. I happen to agree with him as many people would if they actually understood the contents of these bills. And yet, there does not seem to be any serious opposition among the citizens of this country. Another columnist, William Rivers Pitt, who co-authored ?War On Iraq? with Scott Ritter, offered the following line items within the legislation:
* Eliminate vital aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, allowing the government and private corporate contractors to operate completely in secret and beyond citizen oversight;
* Redefines the term 'Terrorism.' Before, 'Terrorism' involved explosions, murder, kidnapping and any activity that used violence to frighten civilians and change the manner in which a government functioned. Under the new legislation, the definition of 'Terrorism' is expanded. Now, 'Terrorism' is defined as an act that, "Is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States," or "Appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." Protests against the government or against a private contractor involved with the government are intended to 'coerce' the civilian population. Loitering is a criminal offense. If you do either of these from now on, you may consider yourself welcomed into the ranks of international terrorism. Seriously.
* Deletes any possibility of an effective independent investigation into what went wrong on September 11th, thanks to the aforementioned FOIA restrictions."
Well, he's close but not quite right, here is the actual text from Section 2 (15) of the bill:
(15) The term `terrorism' means any activity that-- (A) involves an act that-- (i) is dangerous to human life or potentially destructive of critical infrastructure or key resources; and (ii) is a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State or other subdivision of the United States; and (B) appears to be intended-- (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping.
So, loitering isn't automatically considered to be terrorism. But his point still stands, this greatly expands the definition of terrorism. For example, at political protests the police routinely set up "First Amendment Free Zones" where protesters are not allowed to enter. Historically protesters defying the police would arrested and charged with a minor offense. Now they could be charged with terrorism since the zones are set up to "protect public safety" and hence violating that zone would be considered "dangerous to human life". It's that first point that's going to be tricky, and notice, as all laws have done, it promotes the safety of property (infrastructure and resources) on an equal level with life. So, a more accurate way to phrase Pitt's statement would be that if you break the law (which includes any order given to you by the police) and can be shown to be endangering life or property you can be charged with an act of terrorism.
The definition proves interesting for another reason; congress had to attempt to provide a definition of terrorism that would not include the actions of the US military and intelligence agencies. They did this by saying that terrorism must be in violation of US criminal law. It was a nice attempt but has two fatal flaws. The first is that this definition means that only the US can be the victim of terrorism. Terrorism in other countries isn't terrorism... it's something else. The second is that if other countries applied this same measure with their own laws, than in every Central American, South American, African, and Middle Eastern country the US would be guilty of terrorism. That is, guilty of violating that country's laws, harming people or property, for the purpose of coercing civilians or influencing government policy. This was a nice attempt but ultimately it had to fail because there simply are no objective differences between terrorism and US military and intelligence operations.
As for Total Information Awareness... well don't rely on anyone else's opinion. Check out their web pages where the accompanying images are from. Yes, these images are not a joke nor a parody, they are straight from the military website:
For anyone that doesn't know Latin, I'm told that their motto "Scientia Est Potentia" means "Knowledge Is Power."
One item I find interesting, not only are they collecting financial, education, travel, and medical records, but the fifth item listed is veterinary. So, I guess the government plans on using the records of someone's veterinary visits to determine whether or not they are a terrorist. Well, it's hardly surprising, this government has been the Orwellian parody of itself for far longer than I've been alive. I'm sure Robert Anton Wilson gets a chuckle out of all this, especially the IAO logo with all it's masonic and illumati symbols and imagery.
Another point that is relevant to anyone that hasn't yet been cure of their affliction for voting for Democrats is that the Democrats could have stopped this bill both in the Senate and in the House but chose not to. 88 Democrats in the House and 41 in the Senate voted for this bill. I sincerely wish I could say that none of them ever got my vote, but Rick Boucher (D-VA) got my vote in 2000 and voted for it. I figure the least I can do is send him a copy of this article with the assurance that I will advise everyone I know from his district to never give him their vote again and to actively advise others to do the same.
Also, I hope this puts a nail in the coffin for the interchangeable use of republican and conservative as well as democrat and liberal. No conservative would have voted for the largest increase in the size of government in the past 60 years without serious debate to the consequences, nor would they support the gutting of civil rights and privacy rights. No liberal would vote for something so draconian and fascistic. Hence, what we have are a few conservatives and liberals but mostly politicians whose ideology is much closer to fascism than to democracy. Their chief concern is not the "safety of the American people" which this legislation clearly jeopardizes and undermines, but rather maintaining the illusion that their concern is "safety of the American people". Since few Americans will ever read the legislation (and why should they, the majority of the politicians who voted it into law never read it) these self-serving politicians can be content to say that they voted for "The Homeland Security Act of 2002".
One person who posted to Indymedia made a valid point by asking how this differs from the surveillance systems already in place that are being used by various government agencies at the national, state, and local levels. The FBI already has Carnivore and Echelon. Every email you send or website you visit is likely to already be stored as a record in a massive FBI database. I suppose one difference is the scale at which this system will actively gather data. It will completely circumvent a court system for approving monitoring and surveillance. Everyone will be monitored, all the time, in any and every way possible, which is far more than the FBI has been able to do so far. Carnivore is limited to intercepting internet traffic and Echelon to cell phones, radios, and similar devices. The FBI and CIA could always get the documents that the TIA system will be collecting, but it has never been automatically collected on the scale that this provides for.
Another reason for concern is the department is headed by John Poindexter. If his name doesn't ring a bell, he was Reagan's national security advisor and the highest ranking official to be convicted and sentenced to jail for the Iran/Contra scandal. From Indymedia, "Poindexter was eventually convicted of 5 counts of deceiving Congress and sentenced to 6 months in prison. His conviction was later set aside on the grounds that he was convicted using evidence from his immunized congressional testimony." Poindexter also reportedly "quoted Winston Churchill, saying that the truth was so ?precious? it had to be protected by a ?bodyguard of lies.?" You can read some of the emails he and Ollie North tried to destroy here: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/18/archive/.
The date of passage is both ironic and disgusting as November 19th had previously been known as the date of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address which states, ?.. this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom ? and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.? Well, such a government may not have perished from the planet but it has certainly ceased to exist within this country, and the Homeland Security Act is simply the latest of many, many testaments to that fact. Perhaps Robert Anton Wilson stated it best, ?I wonder how many of the serfs even remember that the founders intended to create a free country here.?
"Homeland Security Passes; Democrats to blame"
"You Are a Suspect"
repost on Portland Indymedia:
"The Homeland Security Monstrosity"
repost on Portland Indymedia:
?Osama is Under Your Bed?
repost on Portland Indymedia:
?This perfect system?
?House Pases Orwellian Homeland Security Bill?
Total Information Awareness Resource Center
?Big Brother is HERE! And he's too stupid to choose a less sinister-looking logo?
?Sen Byrd Blasts Homeland Bill?
?John Poindexter: Secret Warrior?
?TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS: The Death of Civil Liberty?
?Bush's War on the Sick and Dying?
repost on Portland Indymedia:
repost on Portland Indymedia:
?Maximum Homeland Security: Prison or Paradise??
Iran-Contra: White House e-mail
Information Awareness Office
Total Information Awareness (TIA) System
Homeland Security Act - Bill Summary & Status
Homeland Security Act - Full Text (HTML) - 611K
Homeland Security Act - Full Text (PDF) - 870K
Homeland Security Act - Current and Prior Versions
The Gettysburg Address
Senate Roll Call for the Homeland Security Act
House Roll Call for the Homeland Security Act