America's New War?
Are we to remain a nation convenient to our politicians? Are we to remain a nation that, according to Bob Dole is "The Land of the Provincial and Home of the Naïve Thank God"? In the rush for political expediency, the first two things that are always sacrificed are the hard-won rights and liberties of the people and any notion of fiscal accountability by their government.
It's official. Tom Ridge has been sworn in as the director of the Office of Homeland Security, as of October 8, 2001. In his acceptance speech, he said, "Although some sacrifices will have to be made, the essential freedoms of the American people will be protected." And this is a very sinister message. What he's saying is that there obviously will be "sacrifices" in the civil rights of the people. And then he's saying the "essential" civil rights of the people will be maintained. But who determines what the word "essential" means? Who determines what "rights" are essential? Certainly the people are not going to determine that. And Ridge didn't say who it was who would be doing the determining. Then Bush spoke for a few more minutes and said that who would be doing the determining would be the "Supreme National Security Council." It will exist above the Homeland Security Directorate, and will be chaired by George Bush, various cabinet members and "certain others who have had long-term political allegiances to my father."
What they're saying is that since this is a super-agency, which is immune from congressional oversight or judicial review, there has to be some regulatory body above it. That will make this Council extra-legal, extra-constitutional, extra-judicial, and extra-legislative. And it's even extra-executive. Bush then is essentially assuming supreme power as Chairman of the Supreme National Security Council.
It's becoming clear how extraordinary the authority that this new agency, the Office of Homeland Security, along with its little brother, the Office of Cyberspace Security, really has. It means that this agency's authority effectively guts the Whistleblower Act of 1986 and the subsequent Whistleblower Protection Act of 1991.
Government whistleblowers are no longer afforded the same measure of protection that they were before. Whistleblowers could actually go into court and request federal protection from US Marshals. They can't do that anymore.
Also the creation of this agency with its vast new powers effectively guts the Freedom of Information Act. Since this agency is operating under essentially National Security law, as amended 1949-1950, and not regular Title Code 18 law, it can classify all of its operations and documents. It would be immune from any public request for information. Virtually all its budget is classified. It does not have to submit any public accounting for the money it spends - not even to the General Accounting Office. This is part of the power it will have as a super extra-legal extra-constitutional body. The only submission to GAO that is required will be total receipts and total expenditures -- what all agencies have to give the GAO even under classified spending, but they don't have to break that spending down at all.
Furthermore (they are preparing the public for this), Bush knows there will be many Supreme Court challenges when we are past this "first blush of patriotism." When the American people have taken off their rose-colored glasses and only have their normal blinders on, there will be many proceedings in the Supreme Court over the authority being given this agency. That's why Bush is saying that this ruling council, this Supreme National Security Council, has decided that its only judicial accountability will be with the National Security Court in Washington DC, a court which the administration controls.
What does this do? It not only suspends habeas corpus, but it does so on a virtually unlimited basis. Even during the Civil War, when Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, there were still some rules. For example, you could not hold somebody for more than 90 days without charge. With this new agency, not only do they act ex post facto vis-a-vis habeas corpus, but there aren't any limits being imposed. They could literally detain people for years - for as long as they wanted. There is no limitation. When people talk about the suspension of habeas corpus, they talk about when Lincoln did it during the Civil War, or when Franklin Roosevelt did it on a limited basis during the Second World War.
Ridge has already said that they have the authority to hold people indefinitely. In wartime suspension of habeas corpus, there are still rules. This is not a simple suspension of habeas corpus, but it is in effect an elimination of it. The power is granted to the Office of Homeland Security by default because it is immune from judicial review.
Likewise, there is a complete suspension of Fourth Amendment privilege of unwarranted search and seizure. For the first time ever, a US agency is given the power to seize assets without judicial proceeding or review. In other words, the people whose assets are seized have no recourse. They are being given no recourses under the law. This agency doesn't have to claim anything. Since they are immune from judicial review, they don't even have to come up with a reason. All they have to say is that, "pursuant to the security of the State, we believe these assets may be used by those who would represent a threat to the security of the State or the domestic tranquility of the people."
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