≡ Menu

Vague And Overbroad Powers

The Black Commentator's Margaret Kimberly notes that Halliburton has won yet another multi-million dollar government contract—this one to build "temporary detention facilities" in case of an "immigration emergency."

The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, the contractor could be tasked with providing housing for ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) personnel performing law enforcement functions in support of relief efforts.

Kimberly quotes the passage, above, from Halliburton's press release and then comments:

Anyone paying a little bit of attention will ask, "What immigration emergency?" If there is an immigration emergency looming on the horizon it is a big secret. Of course immigrants will be the first ensnared in the net that big brother Bush has in mind, but the net won't stop with them.

What sort of national emergency requires detention centers? America has plenty of prisons. More of our population is behind bars than in any country on earth. There are detention centers for immigration in existence already. As for helping in case of a natural disaster, hurricane Katrina proved that saving American lives is not on the Bush agenda.

When the word detention comes up, hairs should rise on the back of every neck. Thanks to the Patriot Act and the creation of "enemy combatants" these detention centers can be used to lock up anyone for any reason for any length of time that Uncle Sam wishes.

Kimberly hopes for the "best case scenario" in which "this contract may be just the latest hand out to the welfare queen of corporate America," but she also entertains the more likely possibility that "our government is planning to create more [Jose] Padillas." I say "more likely" because history suggests this development is nothing less than a revival of J. Edgar Hoover's Emergency Detention Program, detailed in a 1976 Congressional report:

The development of plans during this period for emergency detention of dangerous persons and for intelligence about such persons took place entirely within the executive branch. In contrast to the employee security program, these plans were not only withheld from the public and Congress but were framed in terms which disregarded the legislation enacted by Congress. Director Hoover's decision to ignore Attorney General Biddle's 1943 directive abolishing the wartime Custodial Detention List had been an example of the inability of the Attorney General to control domestic intelligence operations. In the 1950s the FBI and the Justice Department collaborated in a decision to disregard the attempt by Congress to provide statutory direction for the Emergency Detention Program. This is not to say that the Justice Department itself was fully aware of the FBI's activities in this area. The FBI kept secret from the Department its most sweeping list of potentially dangerous persons, first called the "Communist Index" and later renamed the "Reserve Index," as well as its targeting programs for intensive investigation of "key figures" and "top functionaries" and its own detention priorities labeled "Detcom" and "Comsab"(emphasis added).

Director Hoover advised Attorney General Clark in March 1946 of the existence of its Security Index, although he did not say that it had existed since Attorney General Biddle's 1943 directive. The Index listed persons "who would be dangerous or potentially dangerous in the event of . . . serious crisis, involving the United States and the U.S.S.R." The Justice Department then prepared a memorandum concluding that the available options for action in an emergency were a declaration of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. The FBI Director recommended going to Congress to secure "statutory backing for detention" (emphasis added).

After a conference between Department and FBI officials, the FBI submitted a lengthy analysis of its standards for classifying potentially dangerous persons. The memorandum gave specific examples of "Communists and Communist sympathizers whose names appear in the Bureau's Security Index." However, the FBI did not provide any specific examples in the category "Espionage Suspects and Government Employees in Communist Underground." Assistant Director Ladd advised Director Hoover of the reason for excluding any such examples:

The Bureau has identified over 100 persons who are logically suspected of being in the Government Communist Underground; however, at the present time, the Bureau does not have evidence, whether admissible or otherwise, reflecting actual membership in the Communist Party. It is believed that for security reasons, examples of these logical suspects should not be set forth at this time. (emphasis added)

The Director noted, "I most certainly agree. There are too many leaks."

This past week there was a related revelation about a central repository of alleged terrorism suspects (via Julius Speaks):

The National Counterterrorism Center maintains a central repository of 325,000 names of alleged international terrorism suspects or people who aid them, a number that has more than quadrupled since the fall of 2003, according to counterterrorism officials.

The list kept by the National Counterterrorism Center - created in 2004 to be the primary U.S. terrorism intelligence agency - contains a far greater number of international terrorist suspects and associated names in a single government database than has previously been disclosed.

The keeping of large lists of "suspects" is also part of the Hoover heritage. The Custodial Detention List was established in the early 1940s, abolished by Attorney General Francis Biddle in 1943, and immediately re-invented by Hoover as the Security Index, which was maintained through the early 1970s, when it was re-named as the Administrative Index. At each stage in the game, there were subsidiary indices—such as the Communist Index, the Reserve Index and the Agitator Index—less well-known to the Attorney General and Congressional oversight committees. The 1976 Congressional report states that

By early 1951, the total had increased to 13,901 names [on the Security Index] as the result of an FBI decision after the outbreak of the Korean War to broaden "the basis for inclusion in the Security Index to include alI active members of the Communist Party." The size of the Communist Index, as contrasted with the Security Index, was indicated by the figures from the New York field office which had 2,897 names on the Security Index and 42,000 names on the Communist Index. Since the Communist Index was based on "allegations of Communist activity," it was "a measure of investigations performed." If this proportion applied "throughout the field," as the FBI memorandum suggested, then the Communist Indexes in the field offices contained over 200,000 names.

The Bush administration says we should take some comfort in knowing that US citizens comprise "only a very, very small fraction" of the 325,00 names in the National Counterterrorism Center's central repository. "The vast majority are non-U.S. persons and do not live in the U.S.," a Bush administration official said.

The comments of ACLU legislative counsel for privacy rights, Timothy Sparapani, are more to the point:

We have lists that are having baby lists at this point, they're spawning faster than rabbits.... If we have over 300,000 known terrorists who want to do this country harm, we've got a much bigger problem than deciding which names go on which list. But I highly doubt that is the case.

The existence of these over-swollen lists is evidence of what the new, Halliburton-built detention centers are intended for. The development of an infrastructure for mass detentions does not come out of the blue. It has long been a desired power of the federal law enforcement. Even in 1974, after many of these earlier programs came to light and the Attorney General demanded more precise "guidelines" for how security lists would be maintained, the 1976 Congressional report concluded that "the broad claims of power in the hands of the Executive branch could readily permit a return to the vague and overbroad domestic intelligence policies of the past."

And readily permit a return they have.

FURTHER READING
FOX Unleashes Vile McCarthyite Smear Campaign Against Cindy and the Peace Movement

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Brandon February 19, 2006, 7:26 pm

    This is scary.

Leave a Comment