San Francisco Chronicle article by former Congressman mentions growing
buildup in US of concentration camps and railcars equipped with shackles.
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Rule by fear or rule by law?
Lewis Seiler,Dan Hamburg
Monday, February 4, 2008
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, Nov. 21, 1943
Since 9/11, and seemingly without the notice of most Americans, the federal
government has assumed the authority to institute martial law, arrest a wide
swath of dissidents (citizen and noncitizen alike), and detain people
without legal or constitutional recourse in the event of "an emergency
influx of immigrants in the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new
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. The
government has also contracted with several companies to build thousands of
railcars, some reportedly equipped with shackles, ostensibly to transport
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."
Fraud-busters such as Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, have complained
about these contracts, saying that more taxpayer dollars should not go to
taxpayer-gouging Halliburton. 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?
Sect. 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."
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 noncitizens alike.
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." 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.
U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice (Los Angeles County) has come up with a new
way to expand the domestic "war on terror." Her Violent Radicalization and
Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007 (HR1955), which 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 combatting it.
According to commentary 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
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. 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
holds the names of roughly 775,000 "terror suspects" with the number
increasing by 20,000 per month.
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 under
any circumstances. The people must not allow the president to use the war on
terrorism 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.
This article appeared on page B - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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