Unanswered Questions: Thinking For Ourselves
Homeland Security Act: The Rise of the American Police State
(Part 3 of a Three Part Series)
t r u t h o u t | Report
Wednesday, 4 December 2002
Homeland Security Act
The concerns of civil libertarians about incursions on civil liberties under the U.S.A. PATRIOT Act or Homeland Security
Act do not begin to make a dent on public awareness (or in Bush policy-making) because they do not consider the Cheney
Plan for Global Dominance. The Plan supersedes all.
Global domination is the universal dream of every secret warrior. As one of my students wrote in class a few years ago:
"The two major Universal Drives seem to be Dominance (survival) and Sex (love). As long as these two conflicts don't
arise, there is peace in the world."1
But, while everyone may share such drives, not everyone has "an inordinate sense of his own entitlement"2 like Bush and
those in his inner circle have.
If you have the underlying belief that you must dominate in order to survive, you are unlikely to have much concern for
The Homeland Security Act, like the PATRIOT Act, is a further incursion on American civil liberties. Both of these Acts
arose out of a deeper background policy of global domination and disregard for the sanctity of individual human rights.
Federal Supervision of First Responders
The biggest charge that Jasper makes against the Homeland Security Act is that it "mandates federal supervision,
funding, and coordination of 'local first responders' - specifically police and emergency personnel," thus expanding
federal control of local law enforcement.
The sections in the Homeland Security Act that concern "first responders" are in Title V: Emergency Preparedness and
Response, but there is no specific mandate of federal control over local police. The provision simply provides for
coordination and guidance. Although centralization appears to be the only way to properly handle emergency preparedness
on a sufficiently large scale to protect our country, there is, nonetheless, reason for concern that central federal
coordination could lead to loss of local control and to potential federal militarization, especially in view of the many
other measures and events that support such a possibility - such as, the Military Tribunals without constitutional
procedural protections, the preemptive "war" on Iraq, the refusal of hearings and legal representation to "unlawful
enemy combatants" and Guantanamo detainees, the indefinite detention of immigrants who are not even determined to be a
danger (also often without hearings or representation), information-sharing provisions, the mixing of foreign and
domestic investigations under FISA, Citizen Corps, and many more new measures now under the Homeland Security Act
According to the United States Northern Command (USNC), "First responders are the men and women who are "first on the
scene" as a natural or man-made disaster unfolds. They are also the last to leave the scene. First responders are
policemen, firemen, emergency medical technicians. ... There are 11 million state and local first responders in 87,000
jurisdictions throughout the United States."3
The USNC states that: "Our nation's structure of overlapping federal, state, and local governance - more than 87,000
different jurisdictions - provides a unique opportunity and challenge for U.S. Northern Command. Operations are underway
to develop interconnected and complementary relationships and plans to support first responders. Everyone on this broad
team, including U.S. Northern Command, wants to ensure the safety and security of the American people" (emphasis added).
USNC notes that the Posse Comitatus Act (18 USC 1385)4 "generally prohibits U.S. military personnel from interdicting
vehicles, vessels and aircraft; conducting surveillance, searches, pursuit and seizures; or making arrests on behalf of
civilian law enforcement authorities."
USNC adds: "Prohibiting direct military involvement in law enforcement is in keeping with long-standing U.S. law and
policy limiting the military's role in domestic affairs."
However, the USNC notes four statutory exceptions to this prohibition: (1) counter-drug assistance (10 USC 371-82), (2)
Insurrection Act (10 USC 331-34), (3) crimes using nuclear materials (18 USC 831), and (4) chemical or biological
weapons of mass destruction (10 USC 382).
According to a March 6, 2002 article by Gary Seigle on Government Executive Magazine, titled "'First responders' to
terrorism seek federal strategy, equipment," first responders themselves were seeking federal assistance and guidance.
Seigle writes: "A national training standard should be established and maintained by the federal government for first
responders who are poorly prepared and equipped to recognize or respond to a weapon of mass destruction attack,
emergency officials told a congressional subcommittee yesterday."5
According to the New York Times, General Ralph E. Eberhart, now in charge of USNC, said earlier this year that he would
welcome a review of existing restrictions against using military forces domestically. (See Part 2 of this series,
footnote 2.) Meaning, presumably, overturning the Posse Comitatus Act. Doing so would essentially mean allowing a
standing domestic army.
James Madison, a proponent of strong national government, wrote:
In time of actual war, great discretionary powers are constantly given to the executive magistrate. Constant
apprehension of war has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force with an
overgrown executive will not long be safe companions to liberty. 6
Patrick Henry said: "A standing army [will] execute the execrable commands of tyranny." This is "a most dangerous
power," he declared.7
Other provisions of concern are:8
Title II creates a Directorate of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection, charged with creating and maintaining a
massive data base of public and private information on virtually any individual in the United States. Information on
persons' credit card purchases, telephone calls, banking transactions, and travel patterns can be compiled and used to
assemble a profile that could be used to mark innocent people as terrorist suspects.
Section 201(d)(5) gives this Directorate authority to "develop a comprehensive national plan for securing the key resources and critical
infrastructure of the United States, including power production, generation, and distribution systems, information
technology and telecommunications systems (including satellites), electronic financial and property record storage and
transmission systems, emergency preparedness communications systems, and the physical and technological assets that
support such systems."
Sounds almost like a communist state.
Under this provision, personnel from the CIA, FBI, DOS, NSA, DIA, and any other agency the President considers
appropriate, "may be detailed to the Department for the performance of analytic functions and related duties"
This makes the Directorate equivalent to a massive domestic intelligence agency like the KGB. KGB translates as "the
Committee of the State Security."
Private sector analysts may be used and cooperative agreements between agencies are authorized (201(e)(2) and (f)(3)).
It is true that information sharing may be necessary, but these provisions, to say the least, obliterate the distinction
between foreign and domestic intelligence gathering that was codified by the charter of the Central Intelligence Agency
of 1947 and by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Indeed, if the PATRIOT Act did not eviscerate those
statutes, the Homeland Security Act finishes the job.
Section 214 exempts "critical infrastructure information" that is voluntarily submitted to "a covered Federal agency" (201(f)(2))
from public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Once such information is submitted to the
government, it cannot be used in any civil action against the person or entity that submitted it and government officer
who knowingly discloses such information would be subject to criminal penalties (including imprisonment) and fines, as
well as the loss of his or her position.
Senator Leahy (D-Vt) warned that the FOIA exemption would "encourage government complicity with private firms to keep
secret information about critical infrastructure vulnerabilities, reduce the incentive to fix the problems and end up
hurting rather than helping our national security."9
The People for the American Way note that the exemption keeps the Department of Homeland Security "from having to defend
non-disclosure of information in a court of law."
As one reporter noted: "U.S. law does not treat leaks of defense information as a criminal act, nor should it. But leaks
of business information will now be a crime."10
Section 225 absorbs the entire text of the Cyber Security Enhancement Act of 2001 (CSEA) which previously passed the House as a
freestanding measure (HR 3482). Sponsored by Lamar Smith (R-TX), the CSEA allows service providers to voluntarily
provide government agents with access to the contents of customer communications without consent based on a "good faith"
belief that an emergency justifies the release. The same section allows for the installation of pen register and trap
and trace devices without a court order where there is an ongoing attack on a "protected computer." Any computer
involved in interstate commerce qualifies.
Title III concerns "Science and Technology in Support of Homeland Security." Section 304, according to the national Gulf War Resources Center, Inc., "grants the HHS secretary extraordinary powers to declare a
health emergency simply based on a POTENTIAL threat. This means that a hypothetical threat analysis from intelligence
agencies that failed to warn of Sept 11th could be used as a reason to suspend civil liberties and start mandatory
The Cure Autism Now Foundation noted on their website that, "In an eleventh hour maneuver, the House suddenly amended
the Homeland Security Act with a rider that makes it impossible for families who believe their children were
neurologically damaged by non-essential mercury based additives [thimerosal] in vaccines to sue for civil damages ---
even in cases of fraud or criminal negligence."11
Parents Requesting open Vaccine Education (PROVE) and The Connecticut Vaccine Information Alliance (CTVIA) state that
not only does the Act "let drug giant Eli Lily off the hook for thimerosal based vaccine induced injuries and deaths,"
but there are "no personal, religious, or medical exemptions" for the forced smallpox vaccinations, if the authority is
exercised, and "no guarantees for humane quarantine laws."12
Under Section 308, "extramural research development, demonstration, testing, and evaluation programs ... to ensure that colleges,
universities, private research institutes, and companies (and consortia thereof) from as many areas of the United States
as practicable participate" is authorized.
While it may make sense for government to draw upon academia for research, etc., universities must retain their
educational independence if academic freedom is to be preserved. Government intrusion taints academic pursuits.
A clear illustration of abuse of academia were the "extramural" programs carried out under Central Intelligence Agency
Projects Bluebird, MkUltra, and Monarch, from the 1940's through the 1970's. These C.I.A. projects funded similar such
organizations to carry out "research" on unwitting American citizens to see if drugs or other "scientific" methods, such
as hypnosis, "psychic driving," or other forms of mind control programming, could be used to brainwash individuals.13
That was in support of homeland security, too.
Titles IV and XI relate to immigration and border issues. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) states that the law "fails
to provide for a high-level official who is focused on our nations immigration policy, relegates immigration services to
a bureau that lacks its own Under-Secretary, provides little or no coordination between immigration enforcement and
services, and fails to adequately protect the important role of immigration courts."14
AILA further warns that although the Homeland Security Act "codifies the existence of the courts and the Attorney
General's authority to control them," it "fails to address key concerns such as the role and independence of the courts
and the impartiality of the judicial process." Two recent conflicting appellate decisions about whether immigration
courts should be viewed as equivalent to what are known as Article III courts (federal courts) in terms of the public's
First Amendment right of access to hearings support AILA's view.
Section 871 allows the Homeland Security Department to form advisory committees exempt from sunshine provisions in federal law that
normally allow citizens to find out what occurred in meetings of such committees. This provision is clearly Cheney's
answer to those who have sued him to produce records of his energy policy advisory committee.
Section 891 contains the entire text of the Homeland Security Information Sharing Act (HSISA), which passed the House under HR 4598
earlier in the session. This provision will facilitate the sharing of sensitive intelligence information with state and
local authorities and allows for greater sharing of grand jury information and electronic surveillance context.
What Didn't Get In
Section 770 prohibits all federal agencies from implementing the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS). Section 815 prohibits the development of a national identification system or card. The so-called Total Information Awareness
program (TIA), according to one senator, did not get in, although the Pentagon is still creating the database; the
Directorate under Title II, however, is hardly less extensive, the main difference being that TIA mandates the
development of new technology. Since the technology is being developed anyway, this is a distinction without a
All in all, the Homeland Security Act is a frightening piece of legislation. One would have thought that the "walk
softly and carry a big stick" ideal had long ago been proven to be in the grab bag of Big Dicks: those not worthy to be
in the office of the president. This legislation and the acts of this administration purport to be for our protection,
but they expose us to greater dangers. While the administration tells us to be afraid, be very afraid, they make sure we
are not looking at our own faces.
As Glen Phillips, lead singer/songwriter of the now-defunct band, Toad the Wet Sprocket, aptly wrote in his 1997 song
"Whatever I Fear,"
Whatever I fear the most is whatever I see before me
Whenever I let my guard down, whatever I was ignoring
Whatever I fear the most is whatever I see before me
Whatever I have been given, whatever I have been.
1 Comment made by George L. Beke on 11 October 2000 in my class "Act to Write" at the New School Online University
(division of the New School for Social Research).
2 Mark Crispin Miller, quoted in "Bush Anything But Moronic, According to Author: Dark Overtones in His Malapropisms" by
Murray Whyte, http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1128-02.htm.
4 The Act states: "Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of
Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall
be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
6 Christopher Collier, DECISION IN PHILADELPHIA: THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF 1787, p. 316 (Ballantine Books, 1986).
7 Albert J. Beveridge, THE LIFE OF JOHN MARSHALL, Vol. 1, pp. 389, 435 (Houghton Mifflin, 1919). (Quotes taken from the
printed debates of the Constitutional Convention.)
8 I have drawn from several sources in this analysis and have freely copied the language in these:
www.cdt.org/wiretap/021119homelandsecurity.shtml, www.ngwrc.org/anthrax/callyo~1.htm, and
13 See Colin A. Ross, M.D., BLUEBIRD: DELIBERATE CREATION OF MULTIPLE PERSONALITY BY PSYCHIATRISTS (Manitou
Jennifer Van Bergen
is a regular contributor to TruthOut. She has a J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, is a contributing editor
of Criminal Defense Weekly
, an adjunct faculty member of the New School Online University, a division of the New School for Social Research, and
an active member of the ACLU.