Sunday, February 03, 2008


It's for our own good, you know....

Published on The Smirking Chimp (
Rule by Fear or Rule by Law?
By Dan Hamburg
Created Feb 3 2008 - 10:58am
by Lewis Seiler and Dan Hamburg

[This essay will appear in the February 4 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.]

"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, November 21, 1943

Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the US government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide swath of dissidents (citizen and non-citizen alike), and detain people without legal or constitutional recourse.

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 in the event of "an emergency influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."1 The government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport detainees.2

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."3

Fraud-busters like Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) have complained about these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars shouldn't go taxpayer-gouging Halliburton.4 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? According to whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, "Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Middle Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters."5

Section 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."6

The NDAA signifies a continuation of the process of dismantling legal barriers to unrestrained executive power. In 2002, the government created the Northern Command, the first time since the Civil War that the military has been given an operational command inside the continental United States. In 2005, the Washington Post reported that Northcom had developed battle plans for martial law in the U.S., envisioning 15 different scenarios for its imposition.7

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 non-citizens alike.8

In 2007, President Bush tightened the noose by issuing an executive order that authorizes seizure of the property of anyone who "threatens stabilization efforts" in Iraq.9 The government's own Justice Department decides what constitutes such efforts.

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."10 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.

California Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Venice) has come up with a new way to expand the domestic "war on terror." Her Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR 1955), which recently 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 combating it.11

According to a recent article 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. The commission would have the power to hold hearings, take testimony and administer oaths. Individual members of the commission--"little Joe McCarthys"--would be allowed to tour the country holding their own hearings in order to "expose native terrorism."12

Rep. Harman's bill also includes an attack on the Internet, claiming it provides Americans with "access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda," and further legalizes the infiltration of a wide array of organizations.13

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.14 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 currently holds the names of roughly 775,000 "terror suspects" with the number increasing by 20,000 per month.15

Add to these facts the inception of the world's largest mercenary army (Blackwater USA) and the sale of the United States Investigative Service (USIS) to the notorious Carlyle Group, placing the relevant information of every American citizen in private hands, and presto! All the essential elements for the transformation of our constitutional democracy into an American form of fascism are in place.16

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. The people must not allow the president to use the war on terror 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.

* * *


1. Press release posted on the Halliburton website.
2. "Fear the Coming Train," Lost Bleu, Portland Independent Media Center, October 18, 2004.
3. "10-Year US Strategic Plan for Detention Camps Revives Proposals from Oliver North," Peter Dale Scott, New America Media, Feb. 21, 2006.
4. "Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs,' Nat Parry, Consortium News, Feb. 21, 2006.
5. ibid.
6. "Bush Paves the Way for Martial Law [1]," March 22, 2007.
7. ibid.
8. "Who Is 'Any Person' in Tribunal Law?", Robert Parry, Consortium News, Oct. 19, 2006.
9. [2].
10. "Who Will Rule Us After the Next 9/11?", Ron Rosenbaum, Slate, Oct. 19, 2007.
11. "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act," Huffington Post, Philip Giraldi, Nov. 26, 2007
12. "Here come the thought police," Ralph E. Shaffer and R. William Robinson, Baltimore Sun, Nov. 19, 2007.
13. ibid.
14. "Battle of the Beagles," Nick Cooney, Z Magazine, May, 2007.
15. Naomi Wolf interviewed by Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!, Nov. 28, 2007.
16. "When War Is Swell: Bush's Crusades and the Carlyle Group," Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch, May 22/23, 2004.

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'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? According to whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, "Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Middle Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters."'

Oh, and there you go getting my hopes up. As if we still had the will to defend ourselves from this death cult masquerading as a world religion.
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