Patriot Act/Homeland Security

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A TSA agent looks for illegal items at an airport security gate. Increased security at airports is one of the consequences of the 9/11 attacks.

Patriot Act/Homeland Security

Skeptics say the Patriot Act is another ploy of the New World Order to steal our freedom.

The Patriot Act, which President George W. Bush signed six weeks after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York, boosted the range of FBI surveillance parameters and expanded the powers of law-enforcement officers, including the right to hold anyone even suspected of terrorist activities incommunicado for months. Critics of the Patriot Act have called for a tempering of provisions in the law that permit law-enforcement officers to conduct secret searches of private citizens’ homes and businesses. While the FBI’s greatly broadened wiretapping authority may help to catch terrorists, such capabilities should not trample on the rights of private citizens.

Conspiracy theorists are emphatic when they declare that there is nothing patriotic at all about the Patriot Act. In their view, the act is simply another ploy of the New World Order to take away our freedoms and substitute a police state in their place when secret government agents predict cataclysmic terrorist attacks.

On April 3, 2005, the Montana legislature condemned the Patriot Act by issuing a strong resolution encouraging Montana law-enforcement agencies not to participate in any investigations under the Patriot Act that might violate the constitutional rights of the citizens of Montana. While the legislators stressed that they supported the federal government’s fight against terrorism, they could not endorse granting sweeping powers that violated rights enshrined in the U.S. and Montana Constitutions.

Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act were due to expire by the end of the year 2005, so the president and other members of the Bush administration barnstormed the nation making the argument that the law should be kept intact—or expanded. On June 9, 2005, in Columbus, Ohio, President George W. Bush spoke to the Ohio State Patrol Academy and Congress to renew the Patriot Act, crediting the legislation with helping to convict more than two hundred terrorists. The president said that the public should ignore the unfair criticisms of the Patriot Act and make the law a permanent one.

Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-Wisconsin) complained that the president had presented a “false choice” to the American people by stating that Congress must “reauthorize the Patriot Act without any changes or leave our country vulnerable to terrorist attacks.” There are many lawmakers in both parties, Feingold said, who believe that portions of the act infringed on freedom. Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) fear that the law is written in a way that could encourage abuses, but added that they didn’t want to end the Act, only amend it.

Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the Justice Department’s inspector general reported that seven thousand individuals had complained of abuse under the Patriot Act. Graves stated that the ACLU wants the government to show evidence of some link to terrorist activity before being allowed full access to the financial, medical, and other records of private citizens.

Among the complaints most often voiced by critics of the Patriot Act are the following:

  • The act includes language that would impose lifetime incarceration or death upon anyone engaged in any form or degree of crime, sedition, or simply dissent.
  • Congress was hoodwinked into endorsing the legislation. The Patriot Act was printed overnight and then immediately presented to Congress to vote on with almost no time for congressional discussion and no public discussion. The act was presented for vote as the patriotic thing to do in the newly declared war on terrorism.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer release the information it gathers when chemical plants dump toxic substances.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has refused to release secret documents that it prepared regarding the dangers of liquefied natural gas terminals under construction along America’s coastlines. The commission claims the material is critical energy infrastructure information.
  • Despite bitter complaints from the nation’s mayors, the Homeland Security Department won’t tell police and fire departments when dangerous shipments of hazardous materials move through their jurisdictions.
  • The Justice Department has been withholding details of secret proceedings against immigrants since 9/11.
  • A study by the Rand Corporation of the thirty-six websites and more than six hundred public databases shut down after 9/11 concluded that government efforts to censor information was ill advised and ineffective. Terrorists could easily obtain the information elsewhere, in textbooks, trade journals, or through nongovernment sites.
  • The Department of Homeland Security has issued regulations informing government agencies that they are no longer required to release environmental impact statements. New secrecy rules are being applied not only to documents the government gathers, but also to information the government finances.
  • The Council on Government Relations, which represents the nation’s university system, protests that scientists are facing unprecedented new rules written into research contracts requiring them to suppress sensitive but unclassified materials and also to apply for special approval if foreigners are involved in the government-financed research.

In May 2011, the Department of Homeland Security called for contractors to construct and operate National Responder Support Camps. Conspiracists sounded a new alarm when it was discovered in early December 2011 that the Halliburton subsidiary KBR was scouting for subcontractors to build additional FEMA camps. The oft-repeated concerns that the camps were really meant to be detention centers for members of accused terrorists and civilian protest groups who could be detained indefinitely was nearing an unconstitutional reality.

In 1979, when President Jimmy Carter combined various government assistance agencies into the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FEMA camps were described as safe places where first responders to disaster situations might withdraw to receive shelter, food, and other basic needs. The purpose of FEMA was to “reduce the loss of life and property and to protect the Nation from all hazards, including natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and other man-made disasters.” Shortly after 9-11, the Department of Homeland Security amended the utilization of the FEMA camps to include—in addition to assisting local agencies with natural disasters, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and the like—the “assistance” of responding to situations that involved national security. As early as the Reagan administration, however, whistleblowers insisted that FEMA’s true reason for being was to assist in the establishment of martial law and the detainment of American citizens who were involved in acts of civil disobedience.

Conspiracists are increasingly alarmed by the lengths Homeland Security is going to in order to monitor and criminalize American citizens under the guise of protecting the nation. Rather than guarding our society from outside attacks and homegrown terrorists, conspiracy researchers argue that Homeland Security is rapidly amassing the means to convert our republic into a police state. Even now, say the watchdogs of our liberties, the United States is increasingly becoming a nation under ceaseless observation by high-tech spies.

The FBI is currently gathering massive amounts of personal data via an extensive biometric program called the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. This spying technology utilizes various high-tech scanning devices to collect fingerprints, palm prints, iris scans, and such personal identification marks as scars, facial characteristics, tattoos, and voice recognition. These millions of pieces of individual data are not collected from known criminals and suspected radical extremists in their meeting places, but rather from ordinary citizens.

Such personal information fed into the computer systems of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) can track anyone anywhere and record any and all activities. Once this data is combined with information gathered by the Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST) an itemized dossier of anyone’s social habits, recreational activities, daily schedules, and meetings with friends and associates can be analyzed. And all this personal information can be accumulated without the individual’s knowledge—or even more importantly, his consent. Once gathered, all such data can be stored in a centralized NGI database.

The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) has already collected a database of over a million palm prints collected from both crime scenes and a wide variety of locations where palm prints can be recovered. Such future collection projects as iris scanning are also being developed for quick identification of individuals under suspicion for any type of antisocial behavior.

With the implementation of No Child Left Behind in 2001 by the George W. Bush administration, many schools—kindergarten to twelfth grade—began using fingerprint and biometric systems during lunch to insure reimbursement for the federal program.

In 2007, some police departments began using CompuLink laptop computers to record children’s fingerprints at such public events as county fairs. The data was then uploaded to the federal Amber Alert system.

In 2010, the Los Angeles Unified School District informed students that they must submit to a biometric identification system in order to receive lunch.

A school district in Philadelphia found itself facing a class action lawsuit when it was discovered that the 1,800 laptop computers issued to students in two high schools contained concealed cameras that enabled school personnel to monitor the students without the knowledge or consent of either the students or their parents.

In late 2010, it was learned that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had installed surveillance cameras in numerous school cafeterias so government officials could monitor students as they ate.

In 2011, a county in Florida installed fingerprint scanners in school buses as an effective method of monitoring students. School officials are also planning a scanner and laptop installed in every bus in their district.

John W. Whitehead, an attorney specializing in constitutional rights and civil liberties and author of The Change Manifesto, stated the following warning in regard to such abuses of privacy as those cited above: “As surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug-sniffing dogs and strip searches become the norm in elementary, middle, and high schools across the nation, America is on a fast track to raising up an Orwellian generation—one populated by compliant citizens accustomed to living in a police state and who march in lock step to the dictates of the government.”