Department of Homeland Security

Big Brother Is Watching You

Revolutionary Worker #1177, December 1, 2002, posted at

Halfway around the world, the U.S. military is transforming a whole region into its high-tech "battlespace." The lands of the Persian Gulf have become a vast grid for bombers and cruise missiles. The waterways, cities, and roads are scrutinized from the skies--scanned by satellites, analyzed by computers, and then transformed into bombing priorities by teams of unseen killers. The "chatter" of communications is recorded, scanned and dissected. And throughout that area, institutions and organizations are studied, infiltrated and corrupted by the agencies of U.S. intelligence. This is how conquest is now done.

At the very same time, the so-called "homeland" of this superpower, the domestic U.S. itself, is also being treated as a "battlespace." Dozens of domestic government agencies, who once had diverse and different functions, are now being fused into a single massive bureaucracy-- "The Department of Homeland Security," whose central mission is to wage the current war on the home front.

Laws are being changed, legal precedents thrown out. Thousands of new wiretaps are being approved. New rules for approving wiretaps are being written. In some unprecedented cases, U.S. citizens have been arrested and held in military prisons as "enemy combatants" without charges, trial, or access to legal counsel.

Whole sections of the people are singled out for special surveillance, while the data, records, and activities of the entire population are handed over to government agents to be gathered and scrutinized. New forms of government secrecy are in place, while earlier rights for freedom of information are being erased. Massive funds are pouring into the creation of vast new domestic spying systems.

The cornerstones of a police state are being laid. The speed of it all and the lack of high-level debate means it is hard for many people to grasp the huge and historic changes that are being made. September 11 is being used to militarize the domestic U.S.--to act as if every border crossing, power plant, and phone connection is a frontline of national defense. Powerful forces are transforming the way the state apparatus works in the U.S. They are unleashing an army of agents, rapidly increasing the powers those agents will have over the people, and making sweeping decisions about what activities, associations, and political life will now be allowed.


"A crucial point to emphasize here again is the imperialists have set things in motion that can't be easily reversed, and may not be easily controlled. And we can say with a great deal of certainty that at the end of all this--whenever and however what has been set in motion is finally resolved--things are bound to be and will be vastly different, not only internationally, but also within what has been the United States. Whether in a very terrible way, or in a very positive way in terms of the advance of the proletarian revolution worldwide, and perhaps even getting to the point where power is seized by the masses of the people in the U.S. itself--things will be radically different and the America we have known will not exist in the same way anymore."

Bob Avakian, "The New Situation and the Great Challenges," March 2002

Passing the Homeland Security Act

On November 18, the U.S. Senate passed the Homeland Security Act. This is an ominous and far-reaching event--whose full impact will not be known for years to come.

A year ago, in November 2001, Congress rushed through the USA Patriot Act, a huge expansion of domestic police powers to spy and punish. Now, a second massive and complex police-state bill has been passed.

At the heart of this Homeland Security Act is a vast new combined federal bureaucracy focused on tightening control over the domestic U.S.--its borders, its infrastructure, its population movements, its immigration, and its dissidents.

This new "Department of Homeland Security" will combine 22 different existing federal agencies--including the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Secret Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The whole reorganization of government comes cloaked in "national security." Many of the details of what this department will do are going to be worked out behind closed doors. And the Act itself provides new forms of secrecy for those internal processes.

But the heart of this change is already clear: Massive new forces are being brought to bear on policing of the U.S. home front. A huge swath of the federal government has been deputized as a posse for open-ended domestic climate of war--targeted at largely unknown "enemies" and "terrorists." The changes in law, in the restrictions of rights and privacy, and in the functions of government are expected to be permanent. And among the targets of these operations are likely to be the people themselves and their movements of resistance to this system and its crimes.

The Fine Print

"A computer mouse can be just as dangerous as a bullet or a bomb."

Representative Lamar Smith, promoter of "Cyber Security" provisions

Like many omnibus bills, the Homeland Security Act was packed with many different initiatives--rolled up into a single package for an up-or-down vote. At the last minute, hours before the vote in the House of Representatives, many new provisions were added--so the Act was passed, literally, without most representatives knowing what it contained.

Among the provisions in the fine print:

Gutting the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): The law grants the Department of Homeland Security an immunity from FOIA inquiries similar to those that have previously applied to intelligence agencies. In other words, the cloak of spying secrecy is now draped over huge and diverse sections of the U.S. government apparatus. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security is given exemptions from existing laws that require public meetings and hearings. Since September 11, the Bush administration had routinely suspended the FOIA and imposed sweeping new levels of government secrecy.

In addition, the law promises secrecy for any information that private companies provide to the Department of Homeland Security--and threatens government whistle blowers with up to a year in jail if they leak such information. This can be used to pull the cloak of government secrecy over corporate corruption, pollution, and manufacturing.

Computer spying and the elimination of privacy: A year ago, the Senate refused to pass the Cyber Security Enhancement Act. Then, in a slick last-minute maneuver, that bill was simply "rolled into" the new Homeland Security Act and passed without a debate. These provisions give the FBI sweeping new powers to demand information about web users from their Internet Service Providers (ISP). The Electronic Frontier Foundation says this new law allows "any government entity (federal, state, or local) to request email and voicemail from your ISP or telephone provider without a warrant or probable cause."

The law permits some forms of computer surveillance without court order, merely based on a finding of the executive branch of "immediate threat to a national security interest."

This law grants spy powers to "a Federal, State, or local government entity," not just police. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) points out, "As it is written, the act seems to allow public high school principals and tax collectors to request information from service providers."

In one shocking provision, the law increases the federal penalties for hacking critical computer systems--up to life imprisonment!

The Opposition that Doesn't Oppose

"This is a substantial accomplishment, an historic day in the age of insecurity we've entered."

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, leading Democrat and co-author of Homeland Security Act

The lack of opposition to all this--the lack of even the appearance of real debate--has been a shock to many people, including many grassroots supporters of the Democratic Party. Where are the defenders of basic civil rights and privacy? Where is the questioning of a new push toward war? Clearly the Democratic Party is "marching to a different drummer"--it is cut off from much of its own social base.

For many people it seems like madmen are at the helm, and the Democrat politicians are acting like their hypnotized zombies and yes-men.

And the issue has everything to do with class: The heads of the Democratic Party are deeply wrapped in the logic and debate of the ruling class, and deeply involved in the defense and governing of a global superpower. And so, despite the expectations of many people at the grassroots, there is almost unanimous endorsement by the leading Democrats for the government's global offensive--from the passage of huge new military appropriations, to the general idea of forcing imperialist "regime change" on Iraq, to this sinister plan for "homeland security" and massive police powers.

If huge matters of life-and-death weren't involved, the political tag-team between Republicans and Democrats over this Homeland Security Department would be pathetically comical. The Democrats proposed the creation of a new Big Brother Department a year ago, and attacked Bush for not embracing it. When Bush embraced the plan, prominent congressional Democrats condemned Bush for being so slow to pick up on "their idea."

Then Bush proposed a Homeland Security bill that cut seniority rights and job classifications for all employees entering the new Department. It was a calculated attempt to weaken the government employee unions--who are a key apparatus for Democratic Party electoral campaigns.

So suddenly there was high-level controversy over this Homeland Security Act. The Act was in gridlock for three months until the November elections--Democratic officials (who did not oppose the other fascist measures against the people) opposed the attempt to use "national security" to undermine the unions of government workers. The same leading Democrats had not opposed the White House attack on West Coast dock workers--but they dug in their heels when it was a case of their bureaucratic turf and political apparatus. And then, they even capitulated over that.

The moment the election was over, even more sinister provisions were packed into the 484-page bill. And the Democrats were so eager to approve this new Big Brother Department while they still had control over the Senate that they rushed it to a vote, brushing all kinds of other issues and bills out of the way. The final law contained everything the Bush administration had put into it, including the attack on government workers.

In the House the vote was 299-121, with nearly half of the Democrats voting for it, including Nancy Pelosi, the new leader of the Democrats. In the Senate the vote was even more lopsided, 90-9. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said he supported the legislation because of "the tremendous challenge facing the country." Commander-in-Chief Bush phoned in from Air Force One to call the vote "very productive."

Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia has been virtually alone in his rejection of the current course-- roaring from the Senate floor that his colleagues should not "roll over and play dead." And you can see in the genuine interest he has gotten for his fiery C-Span speeches that there is a tremendous hunger among the people for someone (anyone!) to stand up to this juggernaut of repression and war.


"The only thing they care about is maintaining the stability of their rule within the U.S. as a base for their whole international system. They don't care about the safety of the people in the U.S."

from "Bob Avakian Speaks Out, Interviewed by Carl Dix," Part 1

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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