Saturday, Sept. 29, 2001
Saturday, Oct. 6, 2001
The following is a statement issued by the American Civil Liberties Union Friday regarding the new Senate version of "President" Bush's "anti-terrorism" package, now dubbed with the sickeningly Orwellian monicker, the Uniting and Strengthening America (USA) Act:
Friday, October 5, 2001
The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate to reject the newest version of proposed anti-terrorism legislation, saying that it poses significantly more danger to civil liberties than the measure adopted earlier this week by the House Judiciary Committee.
"The new Senate legislation goes far beyond any powers conceivably necessary to fight terrorism in the United States," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU's Washington National Office. "The long-term impact on basic freedoms in this legislation cannot be justified." "For immigrants," added Gregory T. Nojeim, Associate Director of the ACLU's Washington Office, "this bill is a dramatic setback. It is unconscionable to detain immigrants who prove in a court of law that they are not terrorists and who win their deportation cases." Among the bill's most troubling provisions, the ACLU said, are measures that would:
Allow for indefinite detention of non-citizens, even if they have successfully challenged a government effort to deport them.
Minimize judicial supervision of federal telephone and Internet surveillance by law enforcement authorities. Expand the ability of the government to conduct secret searches.
Give the Attorney General and the Secretary of State the power to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations and block any non-citizen who belongs to them from entering the country. Under this provision, paying membership dues to such an organization would become a deportable offense.
Grant the FBI broad access to sensitive business records about individuals without having to show evidence of a crime.
Lead to large-scale investigations of American citizens for "intelligence" purposes.
The new legislation, which has been significantly rewritten in the last 24 hours, was given to Senate offices today. Senate leaders said they are planning to by-pass Judiciary Committee hearings and mark-up; a floor vote in the Senate could happen as early as next Wednesday. "In its rush to legislate, the Senate is abandoning its responsibility to be deliberative and careful," Murphy said. "We urge Senators to insure that any legislation maximizes our security while minimizing the impact on our civil liberties."
Following are highlights of the civil
liberties implications of the compromise legislation introduced by Majority
Leader Tom Daschle, D-SD, Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-MS, Judiciary Committee
Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and ranking minority member Orrin Hatch,
R-UT. Senators Bob Graham, D-FL, and Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, are also original
The ACLU said that the new bill would confer new and unprecedented detention authority on the Attorney General based on vague and unspecified predictions of threats to the national security.
Specifically, the ACLU said that the new legislation would permit the indefinite administrative detention of non-citizens -- including those who win their deportation cases -- based merely on the Attorney General's certification that he has "reasonable grounds to believe" the non-citizen endangers national security. In addition, non-citizens ordered removed to countries that would not accept them could also be indefinitely detained.
"Very few countries will agree to take back one of their citizens if the United States has labeled him a terrorist," Nojeim said. "Even though it says it has compromised on indefinite detention, under this legislation, the Administration still achieves the same result of being able to imprison indefinitely someone who has never been convicted of a crime."
In addition, the ACLU said that the
legislation provides for no meaningful review of the Attorney General's
certification because the standards for the certification are so vague
that judges would have no yardstick for which to judge the appropriateness
of the detention. The review could be had only once, not years later while
the non-citizen remained detained based on a stale determination by the
WIRETAPPING AND INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE
On the question of wiretapping and intelligence surveillance, the ACLU said that the wiretapping proposals in the Senate bill continue to sound two themes: they minimize the role of a judge in ensuring that law enforcement wiretapping is conducted legally and with proper justification, and they permit use of intelligence investigative authority to by-pass normal criminal procedures that protect privacy.
The ACLU said that it was specifically concerned about the following provisions of the new Senate legislation:
1. The bill would allow the government to use its intelligence gathering power to circumvent the standard that must be met for criminal wiretaps. Currently FISA surveillance, which does not contain many of the same checks and balances that govern wiretaps for criminal purposes, can be used only when foreign intelligence gathering is the primary purpose. The compromise bill would allow use of FISA surveillance authority even if the primary purpose were a criminal investigation. Intelligence surveillance merely needs to be only a "significant" purpose.
2. Under current law, a law enforcement agent can get a pen register or trap and trace order requiring the telephone company to reveal the numbers dialed to and from a particular phone. It must simply certify that the information to be obtained is "relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation." This is a very low level of proof, far less than probable cause. The judge must grant the order upon receiving the certification. The new bill would extend this low threshold of proof to Internet communications that are far more revealing than numbers dialed on a phone. For example, it would apparently apply to law enforcement efforts to determine what websites a person had visited. This is like giving law enforcement the power - based only on its own certification -- to require the librarian to report on the books you had perused while visiting the public library. This is extending a low standard of proof - far less than probable cause -- to "content" information.
3. In allowing for "nationwide service" of pen register and trap and trace orders, the bill would further marginalize the role of the judiciary. It would authorize what would be the equivalent of a blank warrant in the physical world: the court issues the order, and the law enforcement agent fills in the places to be searched. This is not consistent with the important Fourth Amendment privacy protection of requiring that warrants specify the place to be searched. Under this legislation, a judge would be unable to meaningfully monitor the extent to which her order was being used to access information about Internet communications. The Senate amendment to the Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill included a similar provision.
4. The bill would also grant the FBI broad access in "intelligence" investigations to records about a person maintained by a business. The FBI would need only certify to a court that it is conducting an intelligence investigation and that the records it seeks may be relevant. With this new power, the FBI could force a business to turn over a person's educational, medical, financial, mental health and travel records based on a very low standard of proof and without meaningful judicial oversight.
The ACLU noted that the FBI already has broad authority to monitor telephone and Internet communications. Most of the changes proposed in the bill would apply not just to surveillance of terrorists, but instead to all surveillance in the United States. Law enforcement authorities -- even when they are required to obtain court orders - have great leeway under current law to investigate suspects in terrorist attacks. Current law already provides, for example, that wiretaps can be obtained for the crimes involved in terrorist attacks, including destruction of aircraft and aircraft piracy.
The FBI also already has authority
to intercept these communications without showing probable cause of crime
for "intelligence" purposes under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act (FISA). Little is known about the extent of this wiretapping, other
than that FISA wiretaps now exceed wiretapping for all domestic criminal
investigations. The standards for obtaining a FISA wiretap are lower than
the standards for obtaining a criminal wiretap.
One of the most serious civil liberties concerns in the Senate bill is that it would dramatically expand the use of secret searches. Normally, a person is notified when law enforcement conducts a search. In some cases regarding searches for electronic information, law enforcement authorities can get court permission to delay notification of a search. This bill would extend the authority of the government to request "secret searches" to every criminal case. This vast expansion of power goes far beyond anything necessary to conduct terrorism investigations.
The bill would also allow for the broad sharing of sensitive information in criminal cases with intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the NSA, the INS and the Secret Service. It would permit sensitive grand jury and wiretap information without judicial review or any safeguards regarding the future use or dissemination of such information.
The bill also creates a new crime of "domestic terrorism."
The new offense would transform protestors into terrorists if they engage in conduct that "involves acts dangerous to human life." Members of Operation Rescue, the Environmental Liberation Front and Greenpeace, for example, have all engaged in activities that could subject them to prosecution as terrorists. Then, under this legislation, the dominos would fall. Those who provide lodging or other assistance to these "domestic terrorists" could have their homes wiretapped and could be prosecuted.
Sunday, Oct. 7, 2001
Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2001
Though the air and missile attacks on Afghanistan only began Sunday, the administration is already positioning ground forces for the next phase of the operation. The attacks of the first three days--launched at night--had been quite light. Today's--the heaviest of the campaign to date, and launched in broad daylight--have all the earmarks of a mop-up operation. Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said initial damage assessment indicated that 85% of the 31 targets assigned had been either destroyed or damaged. Repeat strikes were ordered against those targets not sufficiently damaged. As expected, the operation has been totally one-sided, with U.S. air forces meeting only occasional token resistance and taking no casualties.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today refused to rule out the possibility that U.S. forces would be employed in support of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. "We're encouraging them," he said, of the NA and other anti-Taliban elements. "We would like to see them succeed. We would like to see them heave the Al Qaeda and the Taliban leadership that has been so repressive out of the country." Charles M. Sennott in the Boston Globe last Saturday (Oct. 6), showed how little the administration will accomplish towards ridding Afghanistan of repression by allying itself with the NA. He writes that "in more than a decade of civil war in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance has had an alarming human rights record":
"From 1992 to 1995, rival factions bombed Kabul neighborhoods, killing tens of thousands of civilians, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
'''That period was the worst time in Afghanistan's history,' said Joost Hiltermann, executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch in Washington. 'All these factions vying for power, shelling neighborhoods, committing mass rapes, indiscriminately killing civilians.'
"The abuses reportedly continued even after the Taliban's takeover of Kabul. In May 1997, Uzbek and Hazari soldiers belonging to the Alliance killed 3,000 Taliban prisoners of war, according to Sidney Jones, Human Rights Watch's Asia director.
"'Nobody among the commanders looks very good,' Jones said.
Sennott points out that the NA itself, largely made up of local warlords and their underlings, is internally plagued by a "cycle of killings" between rival factions resembling a "mafia war." This is the beast with which the administration seems poised to align itself.
There simply aren't any meaningful "victories" to be won in Afghanistan, which suggests that those in the administration, who are, of course, well aware of this, have some other goal in mind.
Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001
Friday, Oct. 19, 2001
"...how do I respond when I see that in some Islamic countries there
is vitriolic hatred for America? I'll tell you how I respond:
I'm amazed. I'm amazed that there is such misunderstanding of what
our country is about, that people would hate us. I am, I am -- like
most Americans, I just can't believe it. Because I know how good
we are, and we've go to do a better job of making our case. We've
got to do a better job of explaining to the people in the Middle East,
for example, that we don't fight a war against Islam or Muslims.
We don't hold any religion accountable. We're fighting evil.
And these murderers have hijacked a great religion in order to justify
their evil deeds. And we cannot let it stand."
--"President" George Bush
Oct. 11, 2001
Friday, Oct. 12 -- Cheers to Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis), the lone dissenter in the Senate's 96-1 vote yesterday to pass the "Uniting and Strengthening America Act"--known, in the real world, as the "emergency" anti-terrorism package. "There is no doubt that if we lived in a police state, it would be easier to catch the terrorists,'' Feingold said today. "That probably would be a country in which we would not want to live.''
If such a thing is even possible, the House of Representatives certainly brought further disgrace upon itself today, passing the anti-terrorism bill by a vote of 337-79. The only feature of the bill that could, in any way, be said to be a "redeeming" one is "sunset" provision, whereby the law expires in five years, if not renewed. Notably, Attorney General John Ashcroft opposed such a provision.
The bill's supporters promise a quick conference agreement.
Sunday, Oct. 13 -- The Taliban government in Afghanistan yesterday offered, yet again, to arrange the extradiction of Osama bin Laden to a third country if the United States would provide some evidence of his guilt and suspend the bombing campaign. "President" Bush's reply Sunday was unequivocal: "They must have not heard. There's no negotiations." On the question of providing evidence--a standard procedure in any extradiction process--Bush had this to say: "We know he's guilty. Turn him over.''
Monday, Oct. 15 -- Though one would think, from almost all of the press coverage, that the airstrikes against Afghanistan were largescale endeavors against a significant military force, the truth is, nevertheless, starting to seep out in small pockets of the news media. The Washington Post's website yesterday ran the latest example, an article by William Arkin. Calling the effort "sparse to the extreme," Arkin writes that "only 10 bombers and 15 fighters are being employed daily, in all attacks," and that "fewer than 2,000 bombs and missiles have been fired in the campaign so far":
"The math is most revealing. Despite reports and rumors coming out of Afghanistan about this and that being bombed, fewer than 50 distinct targets were struck in the first week. At the end of the week, only six or seven targets were being hit daily, this in a country the size of Texas. Lots of re-strikes of previously hit targets are included in each day's list."
He compares this campaign to previous ones. In Operation Desert Storm, "first night targets alone numbered 144." In the air campaign in Yugoslavia, "a total of 51 targets were on the first night list, as many as were hit in a week in Afghanistan."
Friday, Oct. 19 -- From the Associated Press today:
"[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld did say that the United States was coordinating with rebels in northern Afghanistan as well as other anti-Taliban forces... Afghan forces opposing the Taliban are attempting to take advantage of the bombing and are hoping for additional U.S. military assistance. Rumsfeld said Friday that the opposition forces known as the northern alliance have asked for and received U.S. aid, including ammunition or money to buy it."
Back on October 6, Human Rights Watch issued a revealing backgrounder on the human rights record of these latest U.S. allies in the war against evil. HRW documents how the fearless freedom fighters of the Northern Alliance regularly participate in such charming activities as "summary executions, burning of houses, and looting, principally targeting ethnic Pashtuns and others suspected of supporting the Taliban. Children, including those under the age of fifteen, have been recruited as soldiers and used to fight against Taliban forces. The various parties that comprise the United Front also amassed a deplorable record of attacks on civilians between the fall of the Najibullah regime in 1992 and the Taliban's capture of Kabul in 1996."
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001
"President" Bush traveled to China this week for his first meeting with Chinese "President" Jiang Zemin. After their meeting in Shangai yesterday, the two leaders held a joint press conference at which it was stated that China is now "working together with the rest of the international community to combat terrorism." This comment came from Jiang, who didn't blush in the slightest at making it while holding the position of leader of a regime that brutally crushes any hint of dissent that emerges from its population. There was this:
"In my discussion with President Bush this morning, I've made clear that we are opposed to terrorism of all forms. And what we have done in the past has shown this attitude of ours very clearly."
This isn't particularly surprising, of course--we expect such murderous animals to make such baldly Orwellian comments. Some of us would, however, like to live in a world in which our own leader wouldn't so readily stand right next to him on a stage and confer legitimacy upon such patently absurd comments. "President" Bush not only did this--he was even more forceful on the point, saying that "China and other Asia Pacific nations are important partners in the global coalition against terror.":
"All civilized nations must join together to defeat this threat [of terrorism]. And I believe that the United States and China can accomplish a lot when we work together to fight terrorism. The President [Jiang] and the government of China responded immediately to the attacks of September 11th. There was no hesitation, there was no doubt that they would stand with the United States and our people during this terrible time. There is a firm commitment by this government to cooperate in intelligence matters, to help interdict financing of terrorist organizations. It is--President Jiang and the government stand side by side with the American people as we fight this evil force."
So the forces of "good" in the Bush administration's new War On Terrorism are to include a regime responsible for literally millions of murders. As a TV show, this looks suspiciously like a re-run.
Sunday, Oct. 21, 2001
Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2001
"What is progress? Until he [Osama bin Laden] is no longer functioning
as a terrorist, he is functioning as a terrorist. There isn't any progress."
--Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
Thursday Oct. 25, 2001
"During 23 years of war, we've seen plenty of bombing. The Russians
bombed between 6 a.m. and midnight to no effect. The American bombing is
so little. What they've done in five days is not the same as one day's
bombing by the Russians... If the United States is going to rely just on
this little bit of bombing, I think it's wrong, a mistake. People thought
America was powerful. If they don't achieve their aim, the whole world
will mock them like they mocked the Russians."
--Gen. Hoji Almas,
Afghan opposition commander
quoted in the Philadelphia Enquirer
Friday, Oct. 26, 2001
Friday. Oct. 26 - There's finally a rumbling. For the first time since the Afghanistan campaign began, a Pentagon spokesman has faced tough questions by the press. Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem recieved something of a minor grilling today by reporters, who are finally getting around to raising the questions about the "mission" they should have been raising from its very beginning. He was a most unimpressive sight. Luckily, for the administration, it's unlikely that most of those reporters will bother to report this.
The conference version of the administration's "emergency" anti-terrorism--now outrageously dubbed "The USA PATRIOT Act"--flew through the pathetic excuse for a U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 357-66 Wednesday. This was swiftly followed, only a day later, by the damnable Senate, which passed it by a vote of 98-1. Only Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis) stood in opposition (Feingold had also been the only Senator to oppose the original version of the bill). "President" Bush is expected to sign it into law today.
Sunday, Oct. 28 - Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested that U.S. military goals in Afghanistan will be "accomplished in the next few days." This morning, White House chief of staff Andy Card appeared on Meet the Press and had this to say about it: "It could take years."
Wednesday, Oct. 31 - The administration today launched the heaviest bombing of the Afghanistan campaign, this time carpet bombing Taliban forces holding the lines against those of the Northern Alliance. This is a dramatic escalation in attacks on these "targets," which began 11 days ago and don't seem to have gained the NA an inch of dirt to date.
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2001
In a move that, so far, has recieved virtually no coverage in the corporate press, "President" Bush today signed an executive order granting former presidents, beginning with Ronald Reagan, wider lattitude in withholding their presidential papers from public release on the grounds of "executive privilege." For 10 months, the administration has been illegally withholding some 68,000 pages of records from the Reagan administration that, by law, were supposed to be released to the public as of January 12. No one seriously believes this is anything other than an attempt by the Bush administration to cover up embarassing information about the Reaganites (including the current "President's" father, who was then vice-president). Bruce Craig, director of the National Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, pulled no punches today, telling the Associated Press that the new executive order was "blatantly unlawful top to bottom," and that it will face a swift legal challenge.
Friday, Nov. 2, 2001
Friday, Nov. 9, 2001
Tuesday, Nov. 6 -- The speaker is White House spokeswoman Anne Womack:
"As the executive order is implemented, if there are suggestions about improving the process, we'll be happy to take those into consideration."
What she's telling us, in case there was any doubt, is that "President" Bush has no intention of rescinding the blatantly illegal executive order he signed Thursday with regard to presidential records. The order in effect bars implementation of the Presidential Records Act, which mandates that the papers of past presidents--made public records--are to be released 12 years after the end of the administration. The Bush order allows a veto of the release of documents by either the sitting president or the former president in whose administration the documents were generated.
Besides literally violating the act, this order rubbishes the intention of it, as well. PRA was passed in the aftermath of Watergate in order to make unequivocal the concept that presidential papers are, in fact, public records. The disgraceful Richard Nixon, in his flight from justice, argued that he should be able to withhold his administration's papers on the grounds that they were his own personal property--PRA was intended to preclude any future attempt at such an argument. Now, it seems, Bush has taken the Nixon position.
This order would be an outrage from a legitimate administration. Coming,
as it does, from a president who was never even elected (and whose only
concievable motivation in issuing it is to protect his father and cronies
from embarassment), it's an offense that should probably rise to the level
of justifying removal from office.
Ross MacKenzie likes what he calls America's newfound sense of national "oneness" in the wake of the terrorist attacks. In his Oct. 2 column, he gave us his proposal for maintaining this "oneness":
"...compulsory national service for the young. All the young. Both genders--no excuses, no exemptions except for the extremely handicapped. One year--immediately following either high school or college.
"The first eight weeks would consist of basic military training. For the remaining 44 weeks, participants would choose to continue in the military or to help in a multiplicity of civilian community-service jobs (e.g., geriatric wards, mental hospitals, homeless centers--the list would be long and broad)."
On Nov. 2, Mona Charen acted as though the press had actually been doing its job with regard to Afghanistan... then condemned them for it:
"Alas, too little has changed. The press continues to cross-examine the military as if it, and not the terrorists, were the enemy."
Cal Thomas knows how to win in Afghanistan. Here's his suggestion, from Nov. 2:
"...President Bush should consider emulating his predecessor, Harry Truman, and employ the use of at least tactical nuclear weapons against the Taliban should it be concluded that such a weapon might produce better results than the current bombing campaign. If this is war, why pull any punches?"
Why, indeed! He doesn't leave it at this, though:
"The Taliban fight with the weapons of terror, determined to kill every man, woman and child they can. The United States should spare no effort in wiping out the Taliban and all terrorists who would follow in their sandal-steps. If there is collateral civilian damage, that's war.
"America's willingness to use nuclear weapons during World War II preserved the peace and struck fear into the hearts of our adversaries. It's time for another demonstration of our resolve. Perhaps nothing short of nuclear weapons will deter for another generation the enemies of freedom. Like the fanatical Japanese of Truman's day, the fanatical Taliban will not be dissuaded from murdering as many Americans as they can. This is not a time for diplomatic or political niceties. It is a time to wipe them out before they wipe any more of us out."
How about some good ol' fashioned anti-immigrant sentiment? Here's some from Linda Bowles (Oct. 30):
"The truth we need to face is this: America is suffering an immigration glut. Parts of America are like third-world countries. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants have no interest in learning the language or adopting the culture of their new country. They have formed separate communities that function as avant-garde outposts of their countries of origin. They offer a ready-made home base for terrorists."
The vile Don Feder (Nov. 5) mocks "President" Bush's words of concilliation to Muslims:
"Someone forgot to tell the gunmen who attacked a Protestant service in Bahawalpur, Pakistan, that Islam is a religion of peace."
Feder isn't playing by the rules; he sees the War On Terrorism as a crusade against Islam:
"Bush has urged American children to adopt pen pals in the Islamic world, to let them know, 'We are not at war with Moslems.' If he says it often enough, he may just convince himself."
But he won't ever fool Feder, who concludes with this snide swipe:
"Let's all contribute to an international fund to teach Moslems about Islam. Apparently, millions of them are less knowledgeable regarding the tenets of their faith than the Methodist in the White House and fail to grasp Islam's live-and-let-live ethic."
LESSONS LEARNED FROM OUR PUNDITS
If we would just trash immigrants in general and hate Muslims in particular, pat our press corps on the back when it doesn't hold government accountable, begin forcible induction of American citizens into the military, and exterminate the evil Muslims of Afghanistan in a nuclear holocaust, what a wonderful world this would be.
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