The Post 9-11 Attack on Civil Liberties by the U.S. Administration and Congress
Legislation was enacted in the immediate aftermath of the attack to give the Government broad new powers to spy on people and to strip people of their civil liberties, including basic rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The first manifestation of the ongoing legislative assault on democracy was the USA PATRIOT Act. The sweeping rollback of decades and indeed centuries of progress in civil, political, and human rights sailed through Congress with barely a whimper. As of May, 2003, few of the provisions had been tested in the courts.
- On October 26, 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was passed into law in a process so rushed that the bill had not yet been printed out in its final form before being voted on. There was virtually no debate, and few if any in Congress understood it's contents. It granted law enforcement and intelligence agencies broad new powers to spy, detain, and charge citizens, while freeing the same agencies from accountability to the people.
- On September 24, 2002, legislation establishing Cabinet-level Homeland Security Department was announced. Senators Zell Miller (D-GA) and Phil Gramm (R-TX) unveiled the new legislation that the ACLU assailed as constitutionally bankrupt because it lacked privacy or civil rights protections. Homeland security is too important an issue to be handled so recklessly, said Timothy Edgar, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. A department so large must have robust oversight and proper civil rights and privacy protections. Without these, what's to stop the Department from abusing the very citizens it is responsible for protecting? aclu.org
- On September 28, 2006 Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, expanding the definition of "military combatants" denying habeas corpus, and claiming exemption from the Geneva Conventions.
Despite the compliance of legislators with the administration's program of wielding of new forms of state power over individuals, most of the details of that program have been implemented through executive rulemaking rather than legislation. 1