Thursday, May 22, 2008

Justifiable Paranoia

"Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous"

The Last Roundup
Is the government compiling a secret list of citizens to detain
under martial law?
By Christopher Ketcham
Radar Magazine
May/June issue

Based on Congressional testimony and interviews with various
anonymous and non-anonymous present and former intelligence and
administration officials, the article describes the ultimate 1984
institution, of which the NSA "wiretapping" was just the tip of the
iceberg. The focus is on a tool called "Main Core," a government
database -- or perhaps rather a methodology of accessing many
government databases -- of information about individuals, whose
contents are incredibly detailed. One of the purposes -- if not the
main purpose -- of this tool is to identify, follow, and predict the
movements of millions of individuals the government has decided might
be problematic if martial law were to be declared, in order to
question or hold and detain them, perhaps indefinitely.

Here are a couple of excerpts (by no means sufficient to give a clear
picture of what is described in the article):

Radar Magazine
. . . If Main Core does exist, says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA
counterterrorism officer and an outspoken critic of the agency, the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its likely home. "If a
master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where
there are no legal issues" -- the CIA and FBI would be restricted by
oversight and accountability laws -- "so I suspect it is at DHS,
which as far as I know operates with no such restraints." Giraldi
notes that DHS already maintains a central list of suspected
terrorists and has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable
threat to domestic security. "It's clear that DHS has the mandate for
controlling and owning master lists. The process is not transparent,
and the criteria for getting on the list are not clear." Giraldi
continues, "I am certain that the content of such a master list [as
Main Core] would not be carefully vetted, and there would be many
names on it for many reasons -- quite likely including the two of us."

Would Main Core in fact be legal? According to constitutional scholar
Bruce Fein, who served as associate deputy attorney general under
Ronald Reagan, the question of legality is murky: "In the event of a
national emergency, the executive branch simply assumes these powers"
-- the powers to collect domestic intelligence and draw up detention
lists, for example -- "if Congress doesn't explicitly prohibit it.
It's really up to Congress to put these things to rest, and Congress
has not done so." Fein adds that it is virtually impossible to
contest the legality of these kinds of data collection and spy
programs in court "when there are no criminal prosecutions and [there
is] no notice to persons on the president's 'enemies list.' That
means if Congress remains invertebrate, the law will be whatever the
president says it is -- even in secret. He will be the judge on his
own powers and invariably rule in his own favor."

". . . We are at the edge of a cliff and we're about to fall off,"
says constitutional lawyer and former Reagan administration official
Bruce Fein. "To a national emergency planner, everybody looks like a
danger to stability. There's no doubt that Congress would have the
authority to denounce all this -- for example, to refuse to
appropriate money for the preparation of a list of U.S. citizens to
be detained in the event of martial law. But Congress is the
invertebrate branch. They say, 'We have to be cautious.' The same old
crap you associate with cowards. None of this will change under a
Democratic administration, unless you have exceptional statesmanship
and the courage to stand up and say, 'You know, democracies accept
certain risks that tyrannies do not.'" . . .


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