Revolutionary Worker #1155, June 16, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org
I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people."
George W. Bush, June 6
With these words Bush laid out his plan for what he called a "Department for Homeland Security"--combining 22 federal agencies into a single operation designed to wage the "war on terrorism" at the U.S. borders and within those borders.
Bush called this the "most extensive reorganization of the federal government since the 1940s." He was referring to the aggressive moves by U.S. President Harry Truman in 1947 shortly after World War 2 that created the CIA, the National Security Agency (NSA) and Defense Department --in preparation for launching a new world war against the Soviet Union and revolutionary China.
A Week of Changes, Announcements and Moves
Bush's unexpected "Homeland" announcement came at the climax of a long chilling week.
The week opened on May 30 with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's announcement of a sweeping reorganization and unleashing of the FBI as a "domestic CIA" for spying on people within the United States--thousands of agents, networks of informants and new rules that allow systematic spying on people without evidence of law-breaking. All done without legislation, debate, hearings or judicial approval. (See last week's article "Police State USA" in RW 1154.)
On June 1, in a speech to graduating officers at West Point, Bush said that the U.S. government was transforming the military--to create a force capable of striking anywhere in the world without warning. He stressed the U.S. military should "be ready for preemptive action" --meaning attacks without specific provocation, public explanation or declaration of war. He added that his government is investigating 60 countries that are possible targets for such attacks because of allegations that "terrorists" may be on their soil. 60 countries put in the crosshairs--as a chill ripples across the planet!
Never in history has any aggressive power threatened so many people and places, so casually, so arrogantly. Where, in the tightly controlled bubble of official U.S. politics, did this outrage even raise eyebrows?
On June 4, an Air Force colonel, Steve Butler, was suspended from duties for calling President Bush "a joke" and suggesting he may have allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen. Butler faces a year in prison--under regulations against "contemptuous remarks about the president" that have not been enforced in almost 40 years. By contrast, "contemptuous remarks" about the previous president, Bill Clinton, were encouraged by the military high command.
Fingerprints at the Border
On June 5, Attorney General Ashcroft announced a sweeping targeting of students, visitors and immigrants from the Middle East. The plan uses a "profile"-- focusing on men, 18 to 35, from 20 different Muslim and Mideastern countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Echoing the government, the New York Times describes them as "high risk people" who "fit the profile of potential terrorists."
Former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) official Ben Ferro defended this official profiling: "We made profiling a bad word, when in fact we profile all the time." In a sign of how open the racism is, California's Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who serves on both the judiciary and intelligence committees, approved of current changes and said on CNN, "At this stage at least, one isn't going to look for blonde Norwegians." Needless to say, flattop-wearing white U.S. military veterans who fit the fascist profile of Timothy McVeigh are also (like "blonde Norwegians") not scheduled to be treated as any "security risk."
Targetted visitors will be required to submit to photographing and fingerprinting at the border. They will be compared to the increasingly sophisticated and massive national and international databases of the authorities. Once in the U.S., they will be required to report regularly to authorities during their stay. This round of new regulation does not cover people who have "green cards" (permanent resident status).
It is estimated that the new rules will force 100,000 people to be fingerprinted this year alone in the name of "national security." Huge new government databases on tourists and immigrants will be established to track and share this information.
Ashcroft said his announcement was a first stage in a plan that, by 2005, will track every one of the 35 million non-citizens who are in the U.S. each year. Ashcroft's plans were patterned on the "alien registration program" that was instituted after World War 2, at the beginning of the McCarthy period. Ashcroft called on the country's 650,000 local police to help control immigrants, saying: "On September 11, the American definition of national security changed and changed forever."
On June 5, reports came out that Marine commanders were visiting the Israeli army to study their "urban combat" techniques in Jenin--the refugee camp ravaged by the Israeli attack that left many Palestinians dead. "We're interested in what they're developing, especially since Sept. 11. There's a lot of things we could learn from them," Lt. Col. Booth told the Marine Corps Times .
That same day, leading Senate Democrats announced they were unanimous in supporting Bush's plan for a war to overthrow Iraq's government.
Big Brother's New Ministryfor Homeland Control
Bush's new "Department for Homeland Security" puts huge resources at the disposal of the "war" on the "homefront." It will be assigned 170,000 employees and a budget of almost $40 billion a year-- almost a tenth the size of the Pentagon. Bush used the word "frontline" over and over -- whether referring to FBI agents in Phoenix or soldiers in Afganistan. Bush's point was that this war the U.S. has launched--this open-ended, relentless war--is to define government operations within the U.S., just like it now defines U.S. operations around the world.
Bush's plan creates several distinct operations within the new Department.
One function is called "information analysis and infrastructure protection." This is intended as a top-level command post for the intense domestic spying and snooping that the Bush administration is working to unleash. The FBI and CIA would remain "independent" agencies-- with their own apparatus and command structure--but would feed reports into the high-level "Homeland Security" department.
A special division called "Border and Transportation Security" combines the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS or La Migra), the Customs agency, the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and the Agriculture Department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Another division will be organized around the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA is notorious as the center of the Reagan Administration's "Rex 84" plans to suspend the U.S. Constitution and round up domestic opposition in case of a major war and/or internal unrest.
Finally, a division is dedicated to issues around "weapons of mass destruction"-- including chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. Operations that come under this division include the notorious U.S. atomic bomb facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, plus the U.S. biochemical laboratories that almost certainly provided the militarized anthrax that killed postal workers and others last fall.
Tom Ridge, who has been Bush's confidential "Advisor for Homeland Security," is considered a likely candidate to head this new cabinet post when it is approved by Congress, perhaps by the end of this year. When he was governor of Pennsylvania, he made himself notorious as a fierce advocate of state executions and a major figure in the ruling class moves to execute revolutionary political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The heart of Bush's announcement is to take many different federal agencies that have been focused on specialized missions and routine tasks and jolt them into close wartime cooperation in the atmosphere of domestic repression that the government is unleashing.
Though officially the Bush administration claims to have studied this new plan deeply and carefully, in fact it was obviously rushed to the podium. None of the heads of the affected departments were informed ahead of time. FBI head Mueller refused to say publicly whether he had been told of the plans. The leaders of Congress were informed only hours before Bush's announcement.
None of this, however, stopped the Democratic Party representatives from unleashing a revolting chorus of "me too" praise for this ominous and threatening government reorganization. Since the Democrats are the "opposition party," they (naturally) had some "criticism" for the president's plan--not-so-stinging complaints over timing. House minority leader Dick Gephardt said: "I'm very happy that they've done this. It would have been better to do this five months ago but, you know, we are where we are." Senator Joe Lieberman announced, without even reading the fine print, that he thought Congress should skip public hearings and just work out final details directly with Bush. And they call that "opposition"!?
A Time for Resistance
"Americans should continue to do what you're doing. Go about your lives, but pay attention to your surroundings. Add your eyes and ears to the protection of our homeland."
George W. Bush, June 6
"They have certain `magical phrases' with which they refute every criticism.... One such phrase is: "But we're at war." This is supposedly the answer to every objection to their police- state measures and militarization of society. Just like the way that, when they say "terrorist," everybody's supposed to stop thinking."
Bob Avakian, RCP Chairman,from "New Situation and Great Challenges"(available on rwor.org)
Day after day, there are changes in the government, in the organization of their spy agencies, in the norms of society, in the deployment of troops.
They come like footsteps--first one, then another, then yet another, on and on --leading us, driving us, relentlessly with real urgency, to a different and unseen place. All comes wrapped in that spooky Orwellian language of "protecting the homeland" and "fighting evildoers."
There is a sense that things are changing rapidly, that the bigger picture and ultimate destination remain unclear and veiled.
In this post-9/11 air of insecurity and fear, people are told to accept and trust, focus on their everyday lives--and above all, support the president, the U.S. military, and, it is now openly said, the government's domestic spy agencies.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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