Big Brother would be proud

Discussion in 'Politics' started by Madison, Nov 14, 2002.

  1. vvv


    Turning into a police state:

    What's The ANSIR?
    FBI Warns Corporate Leaders Of Possible Attacks By Antiwar Activists

    Bill Berkowitz is a long time political observer and columnist.

    At a time when the peace movement appears to be gaining traction, it is troubling to read the latest e-mail advisory from the FBI's Awareness of National Security Issues and Response (ANSIR) program. A December 4 communication, sent to thousands of "corporate security professionals," warns that "a loose network of antiwar groups" opposed "to possible U.S. military action against Iraq, are advocating 'explicit and direct attack upon the war machine.'"

    According to the advisory, the week of December 15-21 has been set aside as a "week of action against warmongering." An Internet posting by a group calling itself "Every Day a Circle Day" has "called for attacks on the headquarter facilities and other assets of oil companies and defense contractors, singling out Boeing and Lockheed Martin," claims the FBI e-mail. It also points out that "Department of Defense (DoD) assets also represent potential targets for attack."

    Other possible targets, says the e-mail, could include "major media companies by 'sanitizing' newspaper vending machines, jamming or hijacking radio and television signals, or attacking broadcast towers and damaging equipment."

    Does the FBI know more about upcoming activities of the antiwar movement than the antiwar movement itself? Or is its recent communiqué a blatant attempt to scare the public, smear the antiwar movement and discourage antiwar protests?

    Jason Mark, the Communication's Director at Global Exchange, the Bay Area-based international human rights group, said neither he nor his colleagues had heard of Every Day a Circle Day. He did, however, think that the timing of the ANSIR advisory was suspicious.

    "Clearly this is a time when the antiwar movement is reaching more and more people, and we believe we are beginning to affect the debate over going to war with Iraq," said Mark. "The administration is obviously concerned that support for war is eroding with recent polls showing that four out of 10 Americans are against a war with Iraq."

    Global Exchange is one of more than 100 peace, social justice and religious organizations that have joined together to form United For Peace, a new nationwide coalition.

    "Given the FBI's notorious history for trying to discredit social justice and peace movements, I wouldn't be surprised if the agency is trying to leak the idea that this peace movement involves some violent factions," Mark added.

    The FBI's ANSIR program, formerly known as DECA (Development of Espionage, Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism Awareness) began in 1995 as a fax service and shifted to e-mail a year later, and has the capacity to service 100,000 subscribers. The program started out warning businesses of potential economic threats from foreign sources. Currently, ANSIR's e-mail project is a component of the government's National Threat Warning System (NTWS), which aims to quickly distribute terrorist threats and warning information throughout the federal government, law enforcement, and the private sector. There is an ANSIR coordinator in each of the FBI's 56 field offices around the country.

    ANSIR communications are sent by request to thousands of people involved in corporate security as well as "others who have requested to receive unclassified national security advisories." To receive communications from ANSIR, recipients must "provide business card information, i.e., organization name, address, phone, fax, etc., to for processing, with a brief description of the product and/or service provided by your organization."

    What caused the FBI to e-blast this particular warning?

    In the pre-dawn hours of October 19, "Every Day a Circle Day" posted a message at "Infoshop News," a website providing anarchist, activist, and alternative news, calling for a worldwide week of actions -- beginning on December 15 and ending December 21 -- to combat warmongering.

    According to the message, the week "culminate" on December 21 because it is "the date of winter solstice, the day of the most darkness, [and is] a legendary time of revolution and change." The communiqué's author(s) makes it clear that they are interested in "soliciting damage" and they call for "resistance, not merely demonstration or advocacy, or scripted acts of 'civil disobedience' where all the participants politely go to jail." (For the complete text of the message, click here.)

    A little over three weeks later, the message was posted at the Maritimes Independent Media Centre website, a site that features "Independent, democratically produced coverage of issues, culture and events in Canada's Maritime Provinces," and several other anarchist-leaning websites.

    At that point, December 10, ASIS International, an Alexandria, Va. based professional security organization picked up the FBI warning and posted it at its Web site and a hurricane in a teacup was born. ASIS is an organization of security professionals that claims a membership of 32,000.

    Activists started getting phone calls from reporters asking if they knew about violent antiwar protests scheduled for the week in question, a query that left them scratching their heads in confusion.

    Curiously enough, the warning comes at a time that the peace movement has become increasingly focused, better organized and more broad based. Instead of the tendency of melding together a number of assorted "oldie but goodie" lefty issues, antiwar activists have trained their sights on stopping the Bush Administration's war with Iraq. Some have called their efforts "mainstreaming" the movement.

    Indeed a broad cross-section of organizations formed United For Peace, a new national campaign that brings together such organizations as the National Organization for Women, National Council of Churches, Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee, Black Voices for Peace, Not In Our Name, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Veterans for Peace. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, United For Peace sponsored more than 130 events -- including teach-ins, Christmas caroling for peace and civil disobedience -- in 37 states. All of the events were peaceful, none involved violence or sabotage.

    The next large United For Peace mobilization is set for January 18-20, when actions are planned to coincide with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial weekend.

    Meanwhile, the events scheduled by United For Peace for the week of December 15 are all relatively low key. They include an interfaith-organized vigil and candle light procession in Chicago; a forum on "The Role of the UN in Build-up to War" In San Francisco; a "Five Day Fast to Let Iraq Live" in San Jose, California; a peace fair including workshops, panels and exhibits in Los Angeles and many more locally staged activities.

    Do any of these events qualify for a special ANSIR advisory? And if so, why?

    (At press time, an e-mail to Every Day a Circle Day had not been answered, and the FBI ANSIR office in Palo Alto had not returned my phone calls.)
    #51     Dec 18, 2002
  2. I think the government has too much time on their hands ...
    #52     Dec 18, 2002
  3. Bush Administration to Propose System for Monitoring Internet

    The Bush administration is planning to propose requiring Internet service providers to help build a centralized system to enable broad monitoring of the Internet and, potentially, surveillance of its users.

    The proposal is part of a final version of a report, "The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace," set for release early next year, according to several people who have been briefed on the report. It is a component of the effort to increase national security after the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The President's Critical Infrastructure Protection Board is preparing the report, and it is intended to create public and private cooperation to regulate and defend the national computer networks, not only from everyday hazards like viruses but also from terrorist attack.* Ultimately the report is intended to provide an Internet strategy for the new Department of Homeland Security.


    But Internet service providers argue that its data-monitoring functions could be used to track the activities of individuals using the network.

    An official with a major data services company who has been briefed on several aspects of the government's plans said it was hard to see how such capabilities could be provided to government without the potential for real-time monitoring, even of individuals.

    "Part of monitoring the Internet and doing real-time analysis is to be able to track incidents while they are occurring," the official said.

    The official compared the system to Carnivore, the Internet wiretap system used by the F.B.I., saying: "Am I analogizing this to Carnivore? Absolutely. But in fact, it's 10 times worse. Carnivore was working on much smaller feeds and could not scale. This is looking at the whole Internet."

    * :D

    #53     Dec 20, 2002
  4. Josh_B


    ...LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Hundreds of Iranian and other Middle East citizens were in southern California jails on Wednesday after coming forward to comply with a new rule to register with immigration authorities only to wind up handcuffed and behind bars.

    Shocked and frustrated Islamic and immigrant groups estimate that more than 500 people have been arrested in Los Angeles, neighboring Orange County and San Diego in the past three days under a new nationwide anti-terrorism program. Some unconfirmed reports put the figure as high as 1,000.

    The arrests sparked a demonstration by hundreds of Iranians outside a Los Angeles immigration office. The protesters carried banners saying "What's next? Concentration camps?" and "What happened to liberty and justice?."...


    One activist said local jails were so overcrowded that the immigrants could be sent to Arizona, where they could face weeks or months in prisons awaiting hearings before immigration judges or deportation.

    Monday was the deadline for men from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Sudan. News of the mass arrests came first in southern California, which is home to more than 600,000 Iranian exiles and their families.

    Officials declined to give figures for those arrested or for the numbers of people who turned up to register, be fingerprinted and have their photographs taken.

    "We are not releasing any numbers," said Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) spokesman Francisco Arcaute...

    "Terrorists most likely wouldn't come to the INS to register. It is really a bad way to go about it. They are being treated as criminals and that really goes against American ideals of fairness, and justice and democracy," Khan said.

    Patriot Act at work.... does it really help? are we feeling safer now?

    It reminds of this post regarding that photgrapher arrest..

    #54     Dec 29, 2002
  5. RFID tags: Big Brother in small packages
    By Declan McCullagh
    January 13, 2003, 6:26 AM PT

    Could we be constantly tracked through our clothes, shoes or even our cash in the future?
    I'm not talking about having a microchip surgically implanted beneath your skin, which is what Applied Digital Systems of Palm Beach, Fla., would like to do. Nor am I talking about John Poindexter's creepy Total Information Awareness spy-veillance system, which I wrote about last week.

    Instead, in the future, we could be tracked because we'll be wearing, eating and carrying objects that are carefully designed to do so.

    The generic name for this technology is RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification. RFID tags are miniscule microchips, which already have shrunk to half the size of a grain of sand. They listen for a radio query and respond by transmitting their unique ID code. Most RFID tags have no batteries: They use the power from the initial radio signal to transmit their response.

    You should become familiar with RFID technology because you'll be hearing much more about it soon. Retailers adore the concept, and CNET's own Alorie Gilbert wrote last week about how Wal-Mart and the U.K.-based grocery chain Tesco are starting to install "smart shelves" with networked RFID readers. In what will become the largest test of the technology, consumer goods giant Gillette recently said it would purchase 500 million RFID tags from Alien Technology of Morgan Hill, Calif.

    Alien Technology won't reveal how it charges for each tag, but industry estimates hover around 25 cents. The company does predict that in quantities of 1 billion, RFID tags will approach 10 cents each, and in lots of 10 billion, the industry's holy grail of 5 cents a tag.

    It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags, which typically include a 64-bit unique identifier yielding about 18 thousand trillion possible values. KSW-Microtec, a German company, has invented washable RFID tags designed to be sewn into clothing. And according to EE Times, the European central bank is considering embedding RFID tags into banknotes by 2005.

    It becomes unnervingly easy to imagine a scenario where everything you buy that's more expensive than a Snickers will sport RFID tags.
    That raises the disquieting possibility of being tracked though our personal possessions. Imagine: The Gap links your sweater's RFID tag with the credit card you used to buy it and recognizes you by name when you return. Grocery stores flash ads on wall-sized screens based on your spending patterns, just like in "Minority Report." Police gain a trendy method of constant, cradle-to-grave surveillance.

    You can imagine nightmare legal scenarios that don't involve the cops. Future divorce cases could involve one party seeking a subpoena for RFID logs--to prove that a spouse was in a certain location at a certain time. Future burglars could canvass alleys with RFID detectors, looking for RFID tags on discarded packaging that indicates expensive electronic gear is nearby. In all of these scenarios, the ability to remain anonymous is eroded.

    Don't get me wrong. RFID tags are, on the whole, a useful development and a compelling technology. They permit retailers to slim inventory levels and reduce theft, which one industry group estimates at $50 billion a year. With RFID tags providing economic efficiencies for businesses, consumers likely will end up with more choices and lower prices. Besides, wouldn't it be handy to grab a few items from store shelves and simply walk out, with the purchase automatically debited from your (hopefully secure) RFID'd credit card?

    The privacy threat comes when RFID tags remain active once you leave a store. That's the scenario that should raise alarms--and currently the RFID industry seems to be giving mixed signals about whether the tags will be disabled or left enabled by default.

    In an interview with's Gilbert last week, Gillette Vice President Dick Cantwell said that its RFID tags would be disabled at the cash register only if the consumer chooses to "opt out" and asks for the tags to be turned off. "The protocol for the tag is that it has built in opt-out function for the retailer, manufacturer, consumer," Cantwell said.

    Wal-Mart, on the other hand, says that's not the case. When asked if Wal-Mart will disable the RFID tags at checkout, company spokesman Bill Wertz told Gilbert: "My understanding is that we will."

    Cantwell asserts that there's no reason to fret. "At this stage of the game, the tag is no good outside the store," he said. "At this point in time, the tag is useless beyond the store shelf. There is no value and no harm in the tag outside the distribution channel. There is no way it can be read or that (the) data would be at all meaningful to anyone." That's true as far as it goes, but it doesn't address what might happen if RFID tags and readers become widespread.

    If the tags stay active after they leave the store, the biggest privacy worries depend on the range of the RFID readers. There's a big difference between tags that can be read from an inch away compared to dozens or hundreds of feet away.

    The privacy threat comes when RFID tags remain active once you leave a store.
    For its part, Alien Technology says its RFID tags can be read up to 15 feet away. "When we talk about the range of these tags being 3 to 5 meters, that's a range in free space," said Tom Pounds, a company vice president. "That's optimally oriented in front of a reader in free space. In fact if you put a tag up against your body or on a metal Rolex watch in free space, the read range drops to zero."

    But what about a more powerful RFID reader, created by criminals or police who don't mind violating FCC regulations? Eric Blossom, a veteran radio engineer, said it would not be difficult to build a beefier transmitter and a more sensitive receiver that would make the range far greater. "I don't see any problem building a sensitive receiver," Blossom said. "It's well-known technology, particularly if it's a specialty item where you're willing to spend five times as much."

    Privacy worries also depend on the size of the tags. Matrics of Columbia, Md., said it has claimed the record for the smallest RFID tag, a flat square measuring 550 microns a side with an antenna that varies between half an inch long to four inches by four inches, depending on the application. Without an antenna, the RFID tag is about the size of a flake of pepper.

    Matrics CEO Piyush Sodha said the RFID industry is still in a state of experimentation. "All of the customers are participating in a phase of extensive field trials," Sodha said. "Then adoption and use in true business practices will happen...Those pilots are only going to start early this year."

    To the credit of the people in the nascent RFID industry, these trials are allowing them to think through the privacy concerns. An MIT-affiliated standards group called the Auto-ID Center said in an e-mailed statement to that they have "designed a kill feature to be built into every (RFID) tag. If consumers are concerned, the tags can be easily destroyed with an inexpensive reader. How this will be executed i.e. in the home or at point of sale is still being defined, and will be tested in the third phase of the field test."

    If you care about privacy, now's your chance to let the industry know how you feel. (And, no, I'm not calling for new laws or regulations.) Tell them that RFID tags are perfectly acceptable inside stores to track pallets and crates, but that if retailers wish to use them on consumer goods, they should follow four voluntary guidelines.

    First, consumers should be notified--a notice on a checkout receipt would work--when RFID tags are present in what they're buying. Second, RFID tags should be disabled by default at the checkout counter. Third, RFID tags should be placed on the product's packaging instead of on the product when possible. Fourth, RFID tags should be readily visible and easily removable.

    Given RFID's potential for tracking your every move, is that too much to ask?
    #55     Jan 16, 2003
  6. I would imagine these RFIDS would be easy to destry, perhaps by putting them in a microwave oven.

    What would scare me is if they were used in physical cash as a way of determining counterfeit. In that stituation, if the rfid was disabled or destroyed then so is your money.
    #56     Jan 16, 2003
  7. Josh_B


    New Monitoring Law Concerns Librarians
    By DAVID B. CARUSO Associated Press Writer

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) - A federal law aimed at catching terrorists has raised the hackles of many of the nation's librarians, who say it goes too far by allowing law enforcement agencies to watch what some people are reading.

    The USA Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, gave the FBI new powers to investigate terrorism, including the ability to look at library records and computer hard drives to see what books patrons have checked out, what Web pages they've visited, and where they've sent e-mails.

    The Department of Justice says the new powers are needed to identify terrorist cells.

    But some librarians, who were meeting in Philadelphia for an American Library Association convention, worry that the FBI has returned to routinely checking on the reading habits of intellectuals, civil rights leaders and other Americans.

    Those tactics, common in the 1950s and 1960s, were occasionally used to brand people as Communists.

    "Some of this stuff is pretty scary, and we are very concerned that people's privacy is being violated," American Library Association President Maurice J. Freedman said.

    Some 10,000 librarians from around the world were expected in Philadelphia for the association's midwinter meeting, which began Friday. The group will discuss the Patriot Act at a forum Sunday and is likely to draft a resolution condemning sections of the law that open library records to police inspection, Freedman said.

    Judith Krug, director of the group's Office of Intellectual Freedom, said routine government inquiries into library records could have a chilling effect on patrons. For example, she said, some might be afraid to take out books on Islam out of fear that they might wind up on an FBI watch list.

    Speaking to reporters in Philadelphia last week, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller sought to play down concerns that the bureau would abuse its powers.

    Mueller said he couldn't recall a case where agents had sought library records to see what books someone had been reading. Most recent FBI inquiries into library files, he said, involved tracking suspects who had used public-access computers to communicate with conspirators or send threatening e-mails.

    He said agents "would not be doing our duty" if they didn't follow leads into libraries, if that's where an investigation takes them.

    The government's new surveillance powers are also limited. The Patriot Act only gives agents the power to research the library habits of "agents of a foreign power." Proponents of the law say that should offer ordinary Americans protection from unwarranted surveillance, although critics said the term could apply to anyone.

    Agents also must obtain a search warrant from a judge, although the act lets them do so in a secret federal court without the library's knowledge.

    "What's next, installing cameras in libraries so we can see what books people are reading?" Freedman said. "Sure it sounds far fetched, and it smacks of Stalinist Russia, but look at what's going on now and you'll see many things that you never would have believed a few years ago."

    Similar outrage has been expressed overseas. On Thursday in Vienna, Austria, the media watchdog in Europe's leading security organization criticized the United States for snooping on the private lives of Americans.

    Freimut Duve of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe condemned the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for monitoring library records and bookstore receipts under the Patriot Act.

    "This goes much too far," he said. "It may invite other governments to do the same."

    The library convention in Philadelphia is scheduled to run through Monday. Participants are also expected to protest cuts in library funding, discuss how to incorporate Internet-based books into their collections and announce the winners of several awards.

    #57     Jan 27, 2003
  8. down the memory hole...

    Destroying the 2000 Evidence?
    Or Just Making It Impossible To See It?

    After the presidential coup of 2000, what happened to the six million ballots so fiercely fought over yet never fully counted?

    They were placed under the supervision of the Florida Division of Library and Information Services.

    At the time that decision was made, historians and other interested parties expressed their firm hope and expectation that all of the ballots would be preserved for posterity, so that later scholars and writers could come to their own independent conclusions about what happened in Florida in 2000.

    In his new proposed 2004 budget, Governor Jeb Bush has cut funding to the Florida Division of Library and Information Services to....ZERO! That's right. It's gone, if Jeb gets his way.

    And the ballots?

    In June, the now soon-to-be-extinct FDLIS (if Jeb has anything to do with it) advised the state's 67 county elections supervisors that the period for retaining 2000 election materials had been "voluntary extended" until 2003.

    The extension will give state legislators adequate time to strike ''a balance between the potential historical significance of these ballots and the cost of their preservation,'' Division Director Barratt Wilkins wrote.

    But now it looks as if, thanks to Jeb, there won't be any FDLIS to do any preserving.

    #58     Jan 28, 2003
  9. Josh_B


    ...The new measures are so broad, critics warn, it's impossible to say whether officials are protecting national security or simply expanding their power to operate without public scrutiny. "An iron veil is descending over the executive branch," warns Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform.

    The first of the new secrecy measures was rushed through Congress in October 2001 as part of the USA Patriot Act, which gave law-enforcement agencies the authority to search homes and businesses without a warrant (a practice known as "sneak and peek") and to secretly track an individual's Internet surfing, library records, and book purchases. When the House Judiciary Committee asked last June how many times the FBI had used each of the new powers -- many of which were taken away from the bureau in the past because of abuses -- the Justice Department said that information was classified. "Their attitude seems to be that even Congress isn't entitled to know how they're using the authority that Congress gave them," says outgoing Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.).

    The push toward secrecy has extended far beyond law enforcement. Under a new policy restricting access to "sensitive but unclassified" information, agencies have made it harder for the public to see records that are often used by health and safety advocates and that industry has long sought to keep secret. The EPA, for instance, now limits access to the "risk management plans" that companies must file to inform communities what is being done to prevent toxic chemical accidents, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has withdrawn information on hazardous materials stored at power plants.

    In some cases, officials are withholding information that could embarrass government agencies or businesses. Last summer, the Department of Agriculture tried to suppress a National Academy of Sciences study that revealed no government secrets but warned that terrorism using foreign pests or pathogens could "pose a major threat to U.S. agriculture." (The academy went ahead and published the report on its own.) The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry no longer allows online access to a report that characterizes security at chemical plants as "fair to very poor." The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has restricted access to two reports -- one of which had been available for 20 years -- that suggest that nuclear power plants are not adequately protected against airplane crashes. And at the EPA last summer, officials, arguing that disclosing information about new appointees constituted a security risk, censored résumés to remove information on education levels and job experience.

    Soon, even private companies may be able to seal off information they don't want the public to see -- simply by sending it to the federal government. Attorney General John Ashcroft has singled out "sensitive business information" as one of the categories federal officials should shield from Freedom of Information Act requests. And under legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security, most information provided by business -- on anything from software security problems to toxic spills -- will be exempted from public-access laws. For example, notes Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Jon Devine, if an improperly stored load of hazardous material were to explode at a chemical plant, information on the substances involved -- and even evidence of negligent storage -- could be off-limits to firefighters, local investigators, and the victims themselves. "The only thing the government can use the information for," Devine says, "is to determine whether they need more security. But they can't force the company to do anything about it."

    Across the country, state officials are following the federal government's lead in closing off public records. Pennsylvania has dismantled a database with environmental information about mines and soil conditions. Iowa has classified architectural information on school buildings. And several states, including Louisiana, have passed anti-terrorism laws that allow local police to keep secret any information gathered in connection with terrorism investigations. Since local police have no jurisdiction over foreign terrorists, notes Joe Cook of the Louisiana Civil Liberties Union, the provisions most likely will be used to conceal files on political activists. "It puts in jeopardy groups that have no intention of being involved in terrorism," he says.

    The full implications of these and other measures -- including additional secrecy provisions tucked into November's homeland security legislation -- have yet to emerge as officials begin to make full use of their powers. "It's only been one year," says David Cole, a professor of law at Georgetown University. "These laws lie around like loaded guns that law enforcement can pick up whenever they please. They don't pick them all up at once." What do you think? <>

    So if your children come down with some new disease or cancer or what ever, due to chemical spill, or hazardous materials leaking into the waterbeds... the information is hidden, maybe even not reported, and cannot be found anymore? You or your physician will not even know what hazardous agents are there and how to counter act them?

    Or for instance we are looking for new house, we will not be able to find out if the property is near or on top of a chemical spill or dump?

    It doesn't sound very comforting..

    What do you think?

    #59     Jan 30, 2003

    Justice Dept. Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act
    Center Publishes Secret Draft of ‘Patriot II’ Legislation
    By Charles Lewis and Adam Mayle

    (WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2003) -- The Bush Administration is preparing a bold, comprehensive sequel to the USA Patriot Act passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, which will give the government broad, sweeping new powers to increase domestic intelligence-gathering, surveillance and law enforcement prerogatives, and simultaneously decrease judicial review and public access to information.

    The bill, drafted by the staff of Attorney General John Ashcroft and entitled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, has not been officially released by the Department of Justice, although rumors of its development have circulated around the Capitol for the last few months under the name of “the Patriot Act II” in legislative parlance.

    Dr. David Cole, Georgetown University Law professor and author of Terrorism and the Constitution, reviewed the draft legislation at the request of the Center, and said that the legislation “raises a lot of serious concerns. It’s troubling that they have gotten this far along and they’ve been telling people there is nothing in the works.” This proposed law, he added, “would radically expand law enforcement and intelligence gathering authorities, reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over surveillance, authorize secret arrests, create a DNA database based on unchecked executive ‘suspicion,’ create new death penalties, and even seek to take American citizenship away from persons who belong to or support disfavored political groups.”

    Section 201, “Prohibition of Disclosure of Terrorism Investigation Detainee Information”: Safeguarding the dissemination of information related to national security has been a hallmark of Ashcroft’s first two years in office, and the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 follows in the footsteps of his October 2001 directive to carefully consider such interest when granting Freedom of Information Act requests. While the October memo simply encouraged FOIA officers to take national security, “protecting sensitive business information and, not least, preserving personal privacy” into account while deciding on requests, the proposed legislation would enhance the department’s ability to deny releasing material on suspected terrorists in government custody through FOIA.

    Section 202, “Distribution of ‘Worst Case Scenario’ Information”: This would introduce new FOIA restrictions with regard to the Environmental Protection Agency. As provided for in the Clean Air Act, the EPA requires private companies that use potentially dangerous chemicals must produce a “worst case scenario” report detailing the effect that the release of these controlled substances would have on the surrounding community. Section 202 of this Act would, however, restrict FOIA requests to these reports, which the bill’s drafters refer to as “a roadmap for terrorists.” By reducing public access to “read-only” methods for only those persons “who live and work in the geographical area likely to be affected by a worst-case scenario,” this subtitle would obfuscate an established level of transparency between private industry and the public.

    Section 301-306, “Terrorist Identification Database”: These sections would authorize creation of a DNA database on “suspected terrorists,” expansively defined to include association with suspected terrorist groups, and noncitizens suspected of certain crimes or of having supported any group designated as terrorist.

    Section 312, “Appropriate Remedies with Respect to Law Enforcement Surveillance Activities”: This section would terminate all state law enforcement consent decrees before Sept. 11, 2001, not related to racial profiling or other civil rights violations, that limit such agencies from gathering information about individuals and organizations. The authors of this statute claim that these consent orders, which were passed as a result of police spying abuses, could impede current terrorism investigations. It would also place substantial restrictions on future court injunctions.

    Section 501, “Expatriation of Terrorists”: This provision, the drafters say, would establish that an American citizen could be expatriated “if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a ‘terrorist organization’.” But whereas a citizen formerly had to state his intent to relinquish his citizenship, the new law affirms that his intent can be “inferred from conduct.” Thus, engaging in the lawful activities of a group designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Attorney General could be presumptive grounds for expatriation.

    The USA Patriot Act, signed into law by President Bush on Oct. 26, 2001, gave law enforcement officials broader authority to conduct electronic surveillance and wiretaps, and gives the president the authority, when the nation is under attack, to confiscate any property within U.S. jurisdiction of anyone believed to be engaging in such attacks. The measure also tightened oversight of financial activities to prevent money laundering and diminish bank secrecy in an effort to disrupt terrorist finances.

    Cole found it disturbing that there have been no consultations with Congress on the draft legislation. “It raises a lot of serious concerns and is troubling as a generic matter that they have gotten this far along and tell people that there is nothing in the works. What that suggests is that they’re waiting for a propitious time to introduce it, which might well be when a war is begun. At that time there would be less opportunity for discussion and they’ll have a much stronger hand in saying that they need these right away.”

    #60     Feb 10, 2003