The Homeland Security Act
Legislation Predicated on the Official Story of the 9/11/01 Attack
The Homeland Security Act (HSA) was pushed through Congress in the months following 9/11, ostensibly to "organize a government that is fractured, divided and under-prepared to handle the all-important task of defending our great nation from terrorist attack."
The 484-page Act prescribed the biggest change in the federal government in over 50 years. Its passage, on November 25, 2002, consolidated more than 20 existing federal agencies into a single Homeland Security Department, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Not since President Truman created the Department of Defense in 1947 has the federal government undergone such dramatic restructuring.
Attack on Civil Liberties
The purported aim of this consolidation was to detect and eliminate emerging terrorist threats by removing information firewalls between government agencies, and centralizing the unprecedented flood of surveillance data made possible by the USA PATRIOT Act.
However, civil liberties groups have objected strongly to the Homeland Security Act from the start, contending that it is characterized by three disturbing trends: reduced privacy, increased government secrecy and power and strengthened government protection of special interests. Allen Weinstein, president of the Center for Democracy in Washington, DC, has called it a "law of unintended consequences."
The Total Information Awareness Office has been the most controversial of the Act's provisions. A Pentagon (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA) project legalized by the Homeland Security Act, TIA was given a startup budget of $200 million, and a mandate to achieve a state of "Total Information Awareness." Admiral John Poindexter, who was convicted of lying to Congress about his central role in the Iran Contra affair, was placed in charge of the IAO.
Poindexter had plans to create 300 million computer dossiers, a file for every American, which would serve as repositories for data "mined" from both public and private sources, including detailed information on transactions, finances, education, medical history, travel, personal communications, and public records from every branch of government, including the CIA and FBI. Programs were also underway to employ facial recognition and "gait recognition" technologies.
However, John Poindexter was widely criticized as an inappropriate selection for the post of IAO director, because of his criminal record. He resigned in August of 2003, amid a scandal around his involvement in a plan to launch an online futures system for betting on Middle East developments, advertised as a way to profit from assassinations and terrorist acts.
The unpopular Orwellian implications of "Total Information Awareness," as well as charges that the program would violate the Fourth Amendment, dampened the project's popularity on Capitol Hill. The Senate voted to cut funding for TIA on January 23, 2003, pending a Congressional report on the office's activities.
Congress, however, did rule that some data mining technologies may be continued by intelligence agencies in secret, as long as they are not used on Americans within our borders.
Another proposed surveillance program, sponsored by Homeland Security Department head Tom Ridge, known as TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), was called by some a "snitch" program because it planned to use information phoned in by neighbors and co-workers. It was removed from the Act before its passage, due to public outcry.
Despite these tenuous victories, civil liberties groups aren't done fighting the Homeland Security Act. Among their major concerns are the provisions of the Act which enable Presidential Advisory committees to meet in secret without having to provide a reason, contradictory to the open meeting provisions of Public Law 92-463 (aka Sunshine Act).
Also under the HSA, any person or agency who voluntarily submits "critical infrastructure information" to a federal agency is assured confidentiality of the information and the source, and the supplier of the information cannot face prosecution based on vulnerabilities that the information reveals, even if the "vulnerabilities" are due to negligence, in which case no corrective action is required.
There are also provisions which would make it illegal to cut government-funded programs if any US jobs will be lost as a result of the cuts. Both of these areas of provision seem to benefit corporate interests more than they provide any real protection to the American people.
Another area of the HSA makes provisions for the institution of federally mandated vaccinations in case of "National Health Emergencies." No evidence is required for the mandated vaccination programs. A hypothetical threat is sufficient.
Removed from the Act was a controversial provision immunizing Eli Lilly and other manufacturers of "terrorist fighting" drugs from liability for occurrences of autism or other known hazards of the vaccines.
A further concern of civil rights defenders is that the HSA's overly broad definition of "domestic terror" ("acts that appear to be intended... to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion") puts First Amendment rights at risk, and opens political activists to accusations of terrorism.
On May 20, 2003, the IAO changed the name of the "Total Information Awareness" program to "Terrorist Information Awareness," emphasizing in its report to Congress that it meant to collect information on dangerous terrorists, not ordinary Americans. However, the description of the program's activities remained essentially the same in the report. Funding has not been restored.
Further indication that the HSA is determined to conduct massive surveillance on the American people is their "deep involvement" (according to the ACLU), with Matrix, a private, Florida-based company which makes data-mining software that can access billions of private-sector records on American citizens in seconds. Tom Ridge approved $8 million in funding to help states connect to Matrix's data banks. This is of particular concern to Constitutional defenders, because Fourth Amendment protection does not apply to personal data in the hands of the private sector.
Origins of the Act: The Council on Foreign Relations
One area of interest regarding the HSA is the question of its origins. The American people were told that the Act was a direct result of September 11. However, it's widely known that the Hart-Rudman Commission, (officially the "US Commission on National Security for the 21st Century"), created under Clinton in 1998, actually authored the blueprint for what became the HSA, and published it in a report called the "Road Map for National Security: Imperative For Change."
The Hart-Rudman report called for the inception of a new, independent "National Homeland Security Agency," which would integrate various US Government agencies, including FEMA, the Coast Guard, the Customs Service, and Border Patrol.
Of the 14 members of the Hart-Rudman Commission, nine were members of the Council on Foreign Relations. The CFR roster has included, over the years, almost every CIA director since Allen Dulles, as well as most of the "neo-conservatives" who populate the Bush Administration, including Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Robert Zoellich, George Tenet and Paul Wolfowitz.
Admiral Chester Ward, retired judge advocate general of the US Navy and long-time CFR member, was quoted in Jim Marrs' book "Rule By Secrecy" as saying that the one common objective of every CFR member is to "bring about the surrender of sovereignty and the national independence of the US... primarily they want the world banking monopoly from whatever power ends up in the control of the global government."
Vice President Dick Cheney has said "We created the Department of Homeland Security, brought together 180,000 federal employees from 22 agencies, for a single purpose: to better protect America."
One is forced to wonder exactly whom Dick Cheney is trying to protect when one considers that his highly secretive Energy Task Force (which, FOIA petitions have revealed, conducted secret study sessions of maps of Iraqi oil fields, pipelines, refineries and terminals in March, 2001), would have been free to meet and generate any kind of document in utter secrecy after the HSA's ratification.
Though the HSA has endangered First and Fourth Amendment rights and weakened more than a dozen privacy laws, the Act's sponsors contend that the post-9/11 climate justifies these intrusions, because, according to one Republican congressman, "The President needs the freedom and flexibility to protect the Homeland."
In May of 2003, the Department of Homeland Security released its report "Securing Our Homeland." In it, they reveal plans to establish something they call the "DHS One Network." Described as "a single wide area network that will centrally connect all directorates and offices within the department with one communication tool," the DHS One Network is slated for completion by December, 2004. Its slogan is "One plan, one team, one fight."