[saymaListserv] Proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act (DSEA)
Michael Austin Shell
bright_crow at mindspring.com
Fri Feb 28 22:38:59 JEST 2003
Some of you already know about this proposed legislation. It is the most
disturbing, most threatening piece of work I have seen yet from this
government. Please share the following as widely as possible...and
consider what we need to do as Quakers and others to prevent its passage.
Patriot Act's Big Brother
by David Cole
In early February, the Center for Public Integrity disclosed a leaked
draft of the Bush Administration's next round in the war on
terrorism--the Domestic Security Enhancement Act (DSEA). The draft
legislation, stamped Confidential and dated January 9, 2003, appears
to be in final form but has not yet been introduced in Congress.
Presumably the Administration had determined that the timing would be
more propitious for passage--meaning less propitious for reasoned
debate--after we go to war with Iraq. But it is one thing to play
politics with the timing of a farm bill; it is another matter to do
so with a bill that would radically alter our rights and freedoms.
If the Patriot Act was so named to imply that those who question
its sweeping new powers of surveillance, detention and
prosecution are traitors, the DSEA takes that theme one giant
step further. It provides that any citizen, even native-born, who
supports even the lawful activities of an organization the
executive branch deems "terrorist" is presumptively stripped of
his or her citizenship. To date, the "war on terrorism" has
largely been directed at noncitizens, especially Arabs and
Muslims. But the DSEA would actually turn citizens associated
with "terrorist" groups into aliens.
They would then be subject to the deportation power, which the DSEA
would expand to give the Attorney General the authority to deport
any noncitizen whose presence he deems a threat to our "national
defense, foreign policy or economic interests." One federal court
of appeals has already ruled that this standard is not susceptible
to judicial review. So this provision would give the Attorney
General unreviewable authority to deport any noncitizen he chooses,
with no need to prove that the person has engaged in any criminal
or harmful conduct.
A US citizen stripped of his citizenship and ordered deported would
presumably have nowhere to go. But another provision authorizes the
Attorney General to deport persons "to any country or region
regardless of whether the country or region has a government." And
failing deportation to Somalia (or a similar place), the Justice
Department has issued a regulation empowering it to detain
indefinitely suspected terrorists who are ordered deported but cannot
be removed because they are stateless or their country of origin
refuses to take them back.
Other provisions are designed to further insulate the war on
terrorism from public and judicial scrutiny. The bill would authorize
secret arrests, a practice common in totalitarian regimes but never
before authorized in the United States. It would terminate court
orders barring illegal police spying entered before September 11,
2001, without regard to the need for judicial supervision. It would
allow secret government wiretaps and searches without even a warrant
from the supersecret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when
Congress has authorized the use of force. And it would give the
government the same access to credit reports as private companies,
without judicial supervision. Historically, we have imposed a higher
threshold, and judicial oversight, on government access to such
private information, because government has the motive and the
wherewithal to abuse the information in ways private companies
generally do not.
But the trajectory of the war on terrorism is probably best
illustrated by an obscure provision that would eliminate the
distinction between domestic terrorism and international terrorism
for a host of investigatory purposes. The Administration's argument
sounds reasonable enough--terrorism is terrorism, whether it's within
the United States or has an international component. But in the
Patriot Act debates, the Administration argued that it should be
afforded broader surveillance powers over "international terrorism"
because such acts are simultaneously a matter of domestic law
enforcement and foreign intelligence. Because foreign intelligence
gathering has traditionally been subject to looser standards than
criminal law enforcement, the government argued, the looser standards
should extend to domestic investigations of "international
terrorism." But now it proposes to extend the same loose standards to
investigations of wholly domestic crimes.
The DSEA's treatment of expatriation and domestic terrorism are
harbingers of things to come. Thus far, much of the war on terrorism
has been targeted at foreign nationals and sold to the American
people on that ground. Americans' rights are not at stake, the
argument goes, because we're concerned with "international" crime
committed mostly by "aliens." With the DSEA, however, the
Administration seeks to transgress both the alien-citizen line, by
turning citizens into aliens for their political ties, and the
domestic-international line, extending to wholly domestic
criminal-law-enforcement tools that were previously reserved for
international terrorism investigations.
How will Congress respond? Thus far, when citizens' rights have been
directly threatened, Congress has taken civil liberties seriously.
Most recently, it blocked the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness
data-mining program. But it blocked it only as applied to US
citizens. As long as the Pentagon violates only foreign nationals'
privacy, Congress in effect said, Go ahead. But that
tactic--protecting citizens' rights while ignoring those of foreign
nationals--is untenable, not only on moral grounds but because if the
Administration gets its way, we are all potentially "aliens."
This article can be found on the web at:
Visit The Nation
Subscribe to The Nation:
More information about the sayma