Freedom to Tyranny: How serial terrorist attacks will change America forever – Part II

In recent days Natural News editor Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, warned of a coming multi-city attack throughout the United States similar to the one that took place in Paris in November and in San Bernardino, Calif., in December. Bugout.news editor Jon E. Dougherty wrote a manuscript in 2006 examining the impact of multiple terrorist attacks in the U.S. on Americans’ constitutional rights and freedoms, a theme he continued in graduate school in 2014-15. This article is one of a series to be published over the course of several days that will provide readers insight into what they might expect in terms of reactions by federal and state governments if Adams’ prediction comes true, and if the premise of Dougherty’s research is confirmed.

(Bugout.news) The U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment conditional guarantee of privacy has also been, according to some experts, emasculated since 9/11. For that reason, say critics of some Bush administration anti-terrorism policies, Americans now have new constitutional concerns. One of the most controversial of these policies thus far has been President Bush’s executive order authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA), in early 2002, to begin warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite the Fourth Amendment’s protections and despite previous legal prohibitions contained in U.S. Code against such domestic spying.

“The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program,” the Washington Post reported in December 2005.[1]

The Bush administration defended the action, however, citing the unusual threat to the nation posed by terrorists. In an interview with journalist Jim Lehrer the day the NSA surveillance story broke, the president himself said, “We don’t talk about sources and methods. Don’t talk about ongoing intelligence operations. I know there’s speculation. But it’s important for the American people to understand that we will do – or I will use my powers to protect us, and I will do so under the law, and that’s important for our citizens to understand.”[2]

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales also defended the righteousness of the program by claiming Congress authorized Mr. Bush to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001…”[3] Said Gonzales, “Our position is that the authorization to use military force which was passed by the Congress shortly after Sept. 11 constitutes that authority.”[4] Finally, administration officials said that operating through normal legal channels – such as getting search warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a special court set up specifically to hear government domestic surveillance requests – was too time consuming. “The aim of the program was to rapidly monitor the phone calls and other communications of people in the United States believed to have contact with suspected associates of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups overseas, according to two former senior administration officials. Authorities, including a former NSA director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court,” the Post reported.[5]

“The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to the United States, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States,” added The New York Times.[6]

Still, number of legal experts, lawmakers and government officials have questioned the constitutionality of the program, as well as the necessity to disregard basic constitutional protections, regardless of threats to the country.

Of the Bush administration NSA surveillance program, one former senior official who specializes in national security law told The New York Times, “This is really a sea change. It’s almost a mainstay of this country that the NSA only does foreign searches.”[7]

“The secrecy and dishonesty surrounding this program are especially troubling,” writes Anthony Gregory, a research analyst at the Independence Institute. “So far, the main argument to sustain the secrecy of the surveillance state seems rather circular. We can trust the government to do what is right because it tells us it is doing what is right.”[8]

The program “goes to the question: Is the president above the law?” writes syndicated columnist Charley Reese. “The answer, if we wish to maintain our free republic, must be no… What the Bush administration is saying is, to hell with the Bill of Rights. We are changing the standard. No probable cause and no oaths or affirmations are needed. All that is needed is if we personally decide that search and seizure is reasonable. By that standard, no police department in the U.S. would need to bother with search warrants.”[9]

Despite the outcry, however, the Bush administration has sought to expand its power to deal with the war on terror beyond what many believe is legal and acceptable. In 2003, in legislation dubbed “Patriot Act II,” the administration wanted congressional support in 2003 more authority to collect information on citizens and terror suspects alike. The legislation, titled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, was “a grab bag of provisions spread throughout the legal landscape,” according to a description by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization which electronic privacy invasion, among other related issues.[10]

Had it been approved, EFF concluded, the legislation would have:

  • Expanded privacy invasion by giving the government “broad new authority” to compel Internet Service Providers, businesses and even friends and relatives to provide information
  • Ending further limitations on surveillance and information sharing
  • Increasing government “gag orders” and secrecy
  • Expanded powers for secret courts

Though “Patriot II” failed to pass, months later legislators were examining another, more sinister version. Called the Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations Act of 2003, or Victory Act, it “not only expands the government’s wiretapping and investigative powers but also would link low-level drug dealing to terrorism and ban a traditional form of Middle Eastern banking,” Wired News reported.[11]

Among other things, the bill would:

  • Allow the FBI to get a wiretap order on a wireless device, such as a cell phone, from any district court in the country
  • Force defendants who are trying to exclude illegal wiretap evidence to prove police intentionally broke the rules
  • Further restrict judges’ sentencing discretion in drug cases
  • Ease restrictions on government access to sensitive financial records
  • Increase penalties for selling drugs to people under the age of 21
  • Make it easier for the government to seize or freeze assets of people accused of money laundering
  • Remove gradations of sentencing for those convicted of selling amphetamines so that anyone convicted of possessing more than 250 meth pills would automatically go to jail for 200 years
  • Increase the ability of the FBI to self-issue subpoenas for terrorism investigations without having to consult a judge.[12]

Privacy advocates also objected to a proposed Pentagon program which uses technology to allow the government to collect personal and financial information on all Americans. Called the Total Information Awareness system, or TIA, the program – developed by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA – was to have been operated by Adm. John Poindexter, USN (Ret.), himself a controversial figure for his 1991 conviction (later overturned) of lying to Congress regarding the Iran-Contra affair.

Go to PART I

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[1] Dan Eggen, “Bush authorized domestic spying,” The Washington Post, December 16, 2005.

[2] President George W. Bush, in an interview with PBS’ Jim Lehrer, December 16, 2005.

[3] P.L. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001).

[4] Pauline Jelinek, “Gonzales says Congress authorized spying,” The Associated Press, December 19, 2005.

[5] Ibid.

[6] James Risen, Eric Lichtblau, “Bush lets US spy on callers without courts,” The New York Times, December 16, 2005.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Anthony Gregory, “Bush’s secret surveillance state,” LewRockwell.com, December 28, 2005.

[9] Charley Reese, “Bush broke the law,” King Features Syndicate, January 31, 2006.

[10] “EFF analysis of Patriot II,” accessed online at http://www.eff.org/Censorship/Terrorism_militias/patriot-act-II-analysis.php.

[11] Ryan Singel, “Patriot Act II resurrected?” Wired News, August 21, 2003.

[12] Ibid.