Tag Archives: Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004

Freedom willingly Surrendered is Seldom Regained

The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home.  James Madison

William Pitt once said: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” Unfortunately necessity seems to have trumped freedom in the United States.

I have no fear of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist regardless of their malevolent intents, perverse ideology, and lethalness of their weapons or commitment to their cause. I don’t fear these malignant vermin because in our history we have faced down far greater threats to our country, our freedom and way of life.  Unfortunately after the attacks of September 11th 2001 something changed in our country. For the first time an enemy had executed a successful attack on the continental United States killing nearly 3000 Americans and throwing the country into a state of shock and dare I say panic and generated such fear and anxiety that people willingly allowed their legislature to pass several acts to safeguard the country. These acts were of grand scale and affected almost every aspect of life in the country from driver’s licenses to airport security as well as government surveillance of e-mail and about every other form of communication outside of cans and string. Under previous courts parts or all of some of these acts would have been declared unconstitutional because previous courts recognized the inherent dangers of such types of legislation.

However fear has a strange affect on people especially a people who have become conditioned to desiring security and material comfort over freedom which entails risk. Despite warnings of civil libertarians on both the political left and right the Patriot Act of 2001 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004 were passed by large majorities in the then Republican dominated Congress and signed into law by President Bush.  They were passed in the shadow of the single most devastating attack on the country in what were considered emergency conditions. They were passed because we were told and many of us earnestly believed that they were necessary for the protection of the American “homeland.”  People willingly submitted to ever increasing security measures especially those in airports and few seem to know or even care that almost every type of telephonic, wireless or electronic means of communication to include e-mail and chat is monitored by Carnivore a massive surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency.  The rational for accepting them is that they were needed to keep us safe form the terrorists. However, as Justice Charles Evans wrote: “Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the federal government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency.”

As I said in my previous post The Road to Totalitarianism is paved with Good Intentions https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/the-road-to-totalitarianism-is-paved-with-good-intentions/ that those that hastily enacted the legislation did so with good intentions, intentions to govern, but as Daniel Webster said: “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

In reaction to further threats and methods of attack by Al Qaeda and its allies the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Transportation Security Agency (TSA) have put into use more stringent and intrusive methods at their airport passenger and crew screening stations.  These include full body scanners that reveal a person’s naked body and if they do not desire that the can submit to a “pat down search” which can also be done to people chosen at random. The methods employed would be illegal if a teacher did them to a student and would get almost anyone else charged with sexual assault.  They are draconian and have been applied to the most vulnerable citizens, children strip searched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSQTz1bccL4 , cancer survivors having their prosthetics removed and examined and one man having his urostomy bag broken leaving him soaked in urine.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40291856/ns/travel-news There have been hundreds of complaints by other citizens who have felt that they have been assaulted in the process of being screened. To add insult to injury the TSA has announced that people who enter a security line and then decided that they do not want to be searched and want to leave the airport can be detained, interrogated and possibly charged with a felony, imprisoned and fined up to $11,000.  They don’t even have to have anything on them; they can be law abiding citizens that simply decide at the moment that air travel is just not worth the humiliation.

The sad thing is that 80% in a CNN Poll said that they were okay with this but in reality these measures are already obsolete because Al Qaeda can change its tactics in an instant. Al Qaeda announced that the operation that led to this cost just over $4,000 and that its attacks were meant to “bleed us to death with a 1000 cuts.” http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/al-qaeda-promises-us-death-thousand-cuts/story?id=12204726 Not only this but there are reports that Al Qaeda is already developing methods for men or women to have explosives surgically implanted and thus completely undetectable unless all passengers are required to have a full body cavity search. http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=229613

The TSA has dug in and is refusing to modify the searches despite pressure from their superiors at the DHS and some in Congress. The have been supported by the President but what really can he do. If he forces a change and something happens then he gets blamed by his political opponents who already have it out for him. Likewise he isn’t doing something that President Bush and John Ashcroft would not have done earlier had the technology been available in 2001.  Add to the fact that 80% of the people say they are okay with these measures as long as they are safe means that he has to back the TSA.  If he doesn’t he alienates even more of the people.  He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.

In surrendering our liberty and all that we hold dear for an illusion of security we have in effect granted victory to Al Qaeda and its allies.  Our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen fight and die every day while their countrymen surrender the freedom that they honestly believe that they are fighting for. The freedoms and liberties that we give up will only grow in number and intensity. It will not end well.

God help us.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under national security, Political Commentary

The Road to Totalitarianism is paved with Good Intentions

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

Hitler presides over the Reichstag during the passage of the Enabling Act

Sometimes in crisis nations enact laws that in the heat of the moment sound quite good. In fact the writers of such laws usually don’t have bad intentions, they react to a crisis enact laws to safeguard society from the events of the crisis which usually included widespread political, social and economic disruption.  In 1919 with the country engulfed in economic, social, political crisis that had evolved into what amounted to a civil war Germany added an article to the Weimar Constitution.  That article was Article 48 and read as follows:

Article 48 of the German Constitution of August 11, 1919:

If public safety and order in Germany are materially disturbed or endangered, the President may take the necessary measures to restore public safety and order, and, if necessary, to intervene with the help of the armed forces. To this end he may temporarily suspend, in whole or in part, the fundamental rights established in Articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153

During the turbulent history of Weimar Article 48 was used by the Socialist President Friedrich Ebert who had to guide the country through the collapse of the monarchy, the humiliation of Versailles, the period of hyperinflation as well as an attempted takeover by those who wanted to implement a Soviet government as well coup attempts from the political right.  After Ebert’s death in 1925 Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg was elected President and during the economic, political and social crisis brought about by the Great Depression invested the conservative Chancellor Heinrich Brüning with the powers of Article 48, something that he also granted to Brüning’s successors Franz von Papen, Kurt von Schleicher and Adolf Hitler.

Under Hitler it was invoked after the burning of the Reichstag, the German Parliament building an event which was very likely executed by the Nazis themselves while blaming the Communists.  It was issued in the following manner:

ARTICLE 1. In virtue of paragraph 2, article 48, of the German Constitution, the following is decreed as a defensive measure against communist acts of violence, endangering the state:

Sections 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, and 153 of the Constitution of the German Reich are suspended until further notice. Thus, restrictions on personal liberty [114], on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press [118], on the right of assembly and the right of association [124], and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic communications [117], and warrants for house-searches [115], orders for confiscation as well as restrictions on property [153], are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Following this the Reichstag passed a law called the Enabling Act. This law gave the President unlimited power which Hindenburg ceded to Hitler.  When Hindenburg died in 1934 the offices of President and Chancellor were merged in the person of Adolf Hitler. This is the text of the Enabling Act legislation:

The Enabling Act of 1933

The Reichstag [the lower house of parliament] has passed the following law, which is, with the approval of the Reichsrat [the upper house], herewith promulgated, after it has been established that it satisfies the requirements for legislation altering the Constitution.

ARTICLE 1. In addition to the procedure for the passage of legislation outlined in the Constitution, the Reich Cabinet is also authorized to enact Laws referred to by Articles 85 Paragraph 2 and Article 87 of the constitution. (Article 85 outlined the process by which the Reichstag and Reichsrat approved the Reich budget. Article 87 restricted government borrowing.)

ARTICLE 2. The national laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet may deviate from the Constitution provided they do not affect the position of the Reichstag (low house of Parliament) and the Reichsrat (the Upper House). The powers of the President remain unaffected.

ARTICLE 3. The national laws enacted by the Reich Cabinet shall be prepared by the Chancellor and published in the official gazette. They come into effect, unless otherwise specified, upon the day following their publication unless they prescribe a different date. Articles 68 to 77 of the Constitution do not apply to laws enacted by the Reich government. (Articles 68 to 77 stipulated the procedures for enacting legislation in the Reichstag.)

ARTICLE 4. Treaties of the Reich with foreign states which concern matters of domestic legislation do not require the consent of the bodies participating in legislation. The Reich Cabinet is empowered to issue the necessary provisions for the implementing of these treaties.

ARTICLE 5. This law comes into effect on the day of its publication. It ceases to be valid on 1 April 1937 or if the present Reich government is replaced by another.

The Enabling Act was passed by a majority of the Reichstag by a vote of 441 to 96. The Communists had been banned and had no representation, the center and right cast aside their reservations and voted for it and only the Socialists led by their Chief Otto Wels voted against it.  For their trouble most of the Socialist deputies would be imprisoned, go into concentration camps or have to flee the country.

Some leaders of religious groups that initially supported the Nazis rapidly discovered that they had made a deal with the Devil. As Martin Niemöller said:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
.

In times of crisis people seek security and stability and are often willing to sacrifice constitutional liberties to do so.  Unfortunately when a people and nation willing abrogate their constitutional rights and protections by legislative action or executive order in the name of security and safety they ensure that they will lose all. The German political parties that voted in favor of the Enabling Act included cultural and religious conservatives.  Most of these people feared a potential Communist takeover and continued political and economic instability more than surrendering their rights and freedoms.

Unfortunately it is my belief as well as that of many civil libertarians on both sides of the political divide that we have set the stage in this country for a totalitarian state.  Our legislature passes massive bills which none have read that are so Byzantine that no one can understand them which often give nearly unchecked power to unelected bureaucrats in government agencies and often serve to grant more power to the Executive Branch at the expense of Congress, the Courts and State governments.  Such legislation passed under conditions where people believe a crisis exists includes the Patriot Act of 2001, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) of 2008 and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) of 2010.  Most of the people that voted for these laws certainly believed that they were doing the right thing, but all contain provisions that give unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats unheard of power over the daily lives of Americans and contain provisions that sacrifice individual rights and liberties. There are numerous other examples which in conjunction with Presidential Executive Orders and Directives, some public and many secret that provide the Executive Branch willing to use them almost unbridled power.  Under normal conditions no President would attempt take full advantage of such powers nor would most people accept such a power grab, but history shows that under emergency or crisis conditions people and legislatures willingly surrender liberty for supposed security.

In Weimar Germany the catalyst was the fear of Communist takeover in the midst of economic crisis that created the conditions by which non-Nazi citizens and political parties surrendered their liberties. In the wake of the attacks of September 11th 2001, continued terrorist threats, two wars, economic crisis, the collapse of the housing market and the ineffectiveness of government leaders at the Federal and State levels the United States in a place where many people may accept an authoritarian or totalitarian regime so long as we are safe and the economy gets back on track.  Instead of a Communist threat we have a Muslim extremist terrorist threat. Instead of the Great Depression we have a world economy on the brink of collapse. People are fearful; millions are going bankrupt or losing their homes and jobs and more seem to be willing to surrender freedom just to be safe and have some semblance of an orderly society again.  You really can’t blame people for wanting a return to an America where it is safe and the economy is doing well there is nothing evil in that desire. Unfortunately history shows that there are those that will exploit people’s fears and longings to gain unbridled power and once they have it will stop at nothing to keep it.

In 1933 the German people surrendered their rights and freedoms for the promise of safety, security, economic recovery and a return to national greatness.  The question that I have to ask is will the people of the United States of America do the same in the next few years?  I think the answer is obvious.  It will only take a successful terror attack on the United States Homeland, an economic collapse or a government shutdown to force the issue. People will demand results and will welcome whoever can deliver those results.  We have already shown what people will accept in order to travel by commercial air and from that it is but a small step to accepting such measures in the rest of life.  Get ready folks it will be a joy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under History, laws and legislation, national security, Political Commentary