[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.

Blessed Be,

    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."

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