Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2003 / 23 Adar I, 5763
It's our Constitution -- not just Ashcroft's
In The New York Sun, a largely conservative newspaper, Errol Louis wrote on the Feb. 10 editorial page that "the 80-page document is a catalog of authoritarianism that runs counter to the basic tenets of modern democracy." You can download that document at www.publicintegrity.org.
I have the entire Justice Department draft of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, which is labeled "confidential," but is not classified. This expands on the USA Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress soon after Sept. 11, 2001, when many in Congress didn't even have time to read the final bill.
Now, with our fundamental liberties again at stake, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has pointed out on Feb. 10 that "for months, and as recently as just last week, Justice Department officials have denied to members of the Judiciary Committee that they were drafting another anti-terrorism package."
The Domestic Security draft is dated Jan. 9. The Center for Public Integrity, in the interest of constitutional democracy, put the secret draft on its Web site Feb. 7. The same day, the center's director, Charles Lewis, further broke the news on PBS' "NOW with Bill Moyers." His was an act of patriotism, for, as Thomas Jefferson said, "the People are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."
I can't, within a single column, detail every abuse against the Bill of Rights contained in the Justice Department draft. But, to begin with, one of the most damaging abuses is Section 201, which would overturn a federal court decision mandating that the government reveal the identities of those persons it has detained in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The new bill states that "the government need not disclose information about individuals detained in investigations of terrorism until ... the initiation of criminal charges" -- no matter how long that might take.
If passed, this would become the first time in American history that secret arrests would be specifically permitted under the American rule of law. Moreover, under Section 501, an American citizen who provides "material support" to a group that the United States has designated as a "terrorist organization" can be stripped of his or her citizenship.
Until now, an American could only lose citizenship by declaring a clear intent to abandon it. Now, the bill says, an "intent to relinquish nationality need not be manifested in words, but can be inferred from conduct." Who will do the inferring? An employee of Ashcroft? The same Ashcroft who has accused his critics of "(scaring) peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty."
This section of the bill means that, if you were to send a check for the legal activities of an organization and, unbeknownst to you, it has been labeled as a terrorist group, then you could end up deported, as a person without a country. Deportations of American citizens are not "phantoms of lost liberty."
Under existing law, the FBI can collect DNA identification records of persons convicted of various crimes. But under Section 302 of Ashcroft's ever-expanding assault on our liberties, the attorney general or secretary of defense will be able to collect, analyze and maintain DNA samples of "suspected" terrorists. That includes mere association with groups the government broadly defines as "terrorist." What does "association" mean?
What are the criteria that can result in such severe effects on Americans?
After reading the ominous 80 pages of Ashcroft's intentions to allow our terrorist enemies to undermine the freedoms we are fighting to protect, I turned to the Supreme Court's 1866 decision, Ex parte Milligan. The Court ruled that Abraham Lincoln had violated the Constitution during the Civil War by suspending habeas corpus, subjecting many dissenters to military tribunals while civilian courts were still open.
Indignantly, the Court said that "the Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances." The Court also recognized that this nation "has no right to expect that it will always have wise and human rulers, sincerely attached to the principles of the Constitution."
"We the People" must turn to Congress to protect us from this out-of-control Justice Department, since the president has yet to keep it within the bounds of the Constitution and its principles.
Clearly, they can't be trusted to solely interpret the Constitution, which doesn't give them the power anyway.
Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.