Investigation. Education. Accountability. Reform.

Rule by fear or rule by law?

by Lewis Seiler, Dan Hamburg
Monday, February 4, 2008

"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 combatting 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 Counterterrorism 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.

Source URL: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/02/04/ED5OUPQJ7.DTL

This article appeared on page B – 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle