Posted by: ShiftShapers
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Thu, 19 Mar 2009 04:20:00 -0500
Is America Already a Police State?
After writing two recent articles covering the emerging global revolt, neither of which examined the coinciding emergence and growth of the global police state, particularly in America, I felt it was necessary to briefly evaluate the elite’s repressive response to the coming insurrection of their long-coveted slaves. This article will focus on the developing police state in the United States. An analysis of international police state developments is beyond the scope of this article and a subject deserving another article of its own, if not an entire series.
In the last eight years we have seen a slew of police state legislation, to the point that it has often been hard to keep up. By now, most take the Department of Homeland Security for granted, but the implications of its emergence should not be ignored. We’ve all, of course, heard of the PATRIOT Act*, though by now it is in the back of our minds, having been normalized in the discourse of the mainstream, corporate media. A few remember the ‘continuity of government’ measures implemented during 9/11 (though few are aware that they were never revoked and instead left in place indefinitely). Many haven’t forgotten the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. Still, many Americans have lost track of the legislative developments, or assumed that the end of the Bush era meant the end of the era of police state preparations, which it obviously did not.
*With many controversial PATRIOT Act provisions set to expire later this year, conservative GOP members of the House are mobilizing to reauthorize them.
You Can Be Declared An Enemy Combatant
Where to start? There’s the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, which grants the president the power to “identify American citizens as ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ and detain them indefinitely without charge,” as Heather Wokusch reports. “The vague criteria for being labeled an enemy combatant (taking part in ‘hostilities against the United States’) don’t help either,” writes Wokusch. Senator Patrick Leahy called the legislation “flagrantly unconstitutional.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that “the Military Commissions Act of 2006 gives the president absolute power to decide who is an enemy of our country and to imprison people indefinitely without charging them with a crime.” According to the ACLU’s MCA fact sheet:
This law removes the Constitutional due process right of habeas corpus for persons the president designates as unlawful enemy combatants. It allows our government to continue to hold hundreds of prisoners more than four years without charges, with no end in sight.
Perhaps more disturbing still is “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” (H.R. 1955). As Jessica Lee reports for The Indypendent,
Many observers fear that the proposed law will be used against U.S.-based groups engaged in legal but unpopular political activism, ranging from political Islamists to animal-rights and environmental campaigners to radical right-wing organizations. There is concern, too, that the bill will undermine academic integrity and is the latest salvo in a decade-long government grab for power at the expense of civil liberties.
Scott Thill reports for AlterNet:
H.R. 1955 defines “homegrown terrorism” and “violent radicalization” nebulously; the former is merely “the use, planned use or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily within the United States or any possession of the United States to intimidate or coerce the United States government, the civilian population of the United States, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives,” while the latter means “the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system for the purpose of facilitating ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change.” Ideologically based violence, in turn, is defined as “the use, planned use or threatened use of force or violence by a group or individual to promote the group or individual’s political, religious or social beliefs.”
Sounds fair enough, until you start crunching the language and come to the realization that practically anyone, on any given day, could fit the description. Which is vague on purpose, as one realizes the farther one digs.
“Detention Facilities” & the “Rapid Development of New Programs”
These developments are particularly disturbing when taken in the context of the detention facilities being constructed in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), who contracted Halliburton subsidiary KBR for the job. These detention facilities are being created under the auspices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) component of DHS. The two expressed intents for these new camps is to deal with an immigration crisis, and to house “domestic terrorists” and their supporters. This must be understood within the context of the Mayday 2006 immigrant uprising as well as the Green Scare, in which earth and animal liberation activists are being defined as, and charged as, domestic “terrorists.”
As Peter Dale Scott reports for The Center for Research on Globalization:
For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North’s controversial Rex-84 “readiness exercise” in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary “refugees,” in the context of “uncontrolled population movements” over the Mexican border into the United States. North’s activities raised civil liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns persist.
“Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters,” says Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. military’s account of its activities in Vietnam. “They’ve already done this on a smaller scale, with the ‘special registration’ detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo.”
Plans for detention facilities or camps have a long history, going back to fears in the 1970s of a national uprising by black militants. As Alonzo Chardy reported in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, an executive order for continuity of government (COG) had been drafted in 1982 by FEMA head Louis Giuffrida. The order called for “suspension of the Constitution” and “declaration of martial law.” The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a memo by Giuffrida’s deputy, John Brinkerhoff.
In 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 188, one of a series of directives that authorized continued planning for COG by a private parallel government.
Scott also writes that the contract “calls for preparing for ‘an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs‘ in the event of other emergencies, such as ‘a natural disaster.’ The release offered no details about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when.”
Just exactly does “the rapid development of new programs” mean? What sort of new programs?
These detention facilities also fit into ICE’s Operation Endgame, for which other detention facilities exist, such as the Northwest Detention Center, run by the GEO Group. As one anti-ICE activist wrote:
ICE has regional detention centers around the country (and in Cuba) and contracts the maintenance of the detention facilities with prison and detention corporations. The largest of such corporations are GEO Group and Corrections Corporation of America. GEO Group runs the infamous Guantanamo Bay. Wells Fargo is one of GEO Group’s largest shareholders. Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Cheney’s Halliburton, also has ties to GEO Group. These for-profit companies, with dozens of facilities around the world, benefit from tearing apart families and locking up people. The more individuals in a detention center, the more profits for the corporation.
Under ICE, the Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) is executing Operation Endgame, a plan to round up and deport all undocumented people (12 million people) by 2012.
On top of these developments, Michel Chossudovsky of The Center for Research on Globalization recently reported that “a bill entitled the National Emergency Centers Establishment Act (HR 645) was introduced in the US Congress in January. It calls for the establishment of six national emergency centers in major regions in the US to be located on existing military installations.” He continues:
The stated purpose of the “national emergency centers” is to provide “temporary housing, medical, and humanitarian assistance to individuals and families dislocated due to an emergency or major disaster.” In actuality, what we are dealing with are FEMA internment camps. HR 645 states that the camps can be used to “meet other appropriate needs, as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security.”
There has been virtually no press coverage of HR 645. These “civilian facilities” on US military bases are to be established in cooperation with the US Military. Modeled on Guantanamo, what we are dealing with is the militarization of FEMA internment facilities. Once a person is arrested and interned in a FEMA camp located on a military base, that person would in all likelihood, under a national emergency, fall under the de facto jurisdiction of the Military: civilian justice and law enforcement including habeas corpus would no longer apply. HR 645 bears a direct relationship to the economic crisis and the likelihood of mass protests across America. It constitutes a further move to militarize civilian law enforcement, repealing the Posse Comitatus Act.
The proposed internment camps should be seen in relation to the broader process of militarization of civilian institutions. The construction of internment camps predates the introduction of HR 645 (Establishment of Emergency Centers) in January 2009. There are, according to various (unconfirmed) reports, some 800 FEMA prison camps in different regions of the U.S. Moreover, since the 1980s, the US military has developed “tactics, techniques and procedures” to suppress civilian dissent, to be used in the eventuality of mass protests (United States Army Field Manual 19-15 under Operation Garden Plot, entitled “Civil Disturbances” was issued in 1985).
Domestic Troop Deployments, Civil Unrest, & Obama’s Police State
The Bush era is over, officially, but many mistakenly believe that Bush-era police state activity is as well, which is it not (nor did it begin with Bush in the first place). Many of the actions undertaken by George W. Bush to empower himself and the police state remain active tools in the Obama administration, and how Obama himself will approach them remains to be seen. Many remain hopeful, yet at least as many are disillusioned by the actions of Obama thus far, and no longer cling to a messianic view our new president. But as a wise man once said, you don’t stab someone with a nine-inch blade, pull it out three inches, and call it progress (or in this case, “hope” and “change”).
Even as the glorious age of Obama and the thousand years of peace it will bring unfolds before us like a lotus flower made of rainbow starlight, new blossoms of repression continue to emerge from the decomposing muck of the Bush administration. As Marjorie Cohn reports, newly revealed Bush-era memos “reveal a concerted strategy to cloak the president with power to override the Constitution.” She continues:
The memos provide “legal” rationales for the president to suspend freedom of speech and press; order warrantless searches and seizures, including wiretaps of US citizens; lock up US citizens indefinitely in the United States without criminal charges; send suspected terrorists to other countries where they will likely be tortured; and unilaterally abrogate treaties. According to the reasoning in the memos, Congress has no role to check and balance the executive. That is the definition of a police state.
Memos and legislation aside, one of the more disturbing developments in the emerging and already present American police state is the deployment of troops, as of October 1st of last year, on American soil, with the expressed purpose of quelling domestic revolt. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, which is now deployed within the United States, “has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle,” according to Gina Cavallaro of the Army Times.
As the Army Times initially reported, “this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities.”
As Bill Van Auken reports, “for the first time ever, the US military is deploying an active duty regular Army combat unit for full-time use inside the United States to deal with emergencies, including potential civil unrest.”
Spencer S. Hsu and Ann Scott Tyson of The Washington Post report that “the U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011” under the guise of assisting “state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.”
Bill Van Auken writes:
In the 2007 Pentagon spending bill it inserted a measure to amend the Posse Comitatus Act to clear the way for the domestic deployment of the military in the event of natural disaster, terrorist attack or “other conditions in which the president determines that domestic violence has occurred to the extent that state officials cannot maintain public order.”
The provision granted the president sweeping new powers to impose martial law by declaring a “public emergency” for virtually any reason, allowing him to deploy troops anywhere in the US and to take control of state-based National Guard units without the consent of state governors in order to “suppress public disorder.”
The provision was subsequently repealed by Congress as part of the 2008 military appropriations legislation, but the intent remains. Given the sweeping powers claimed by the White House in the name of the “commander in chief” in a global war on terror—powers to suspend habeas corpus, carry out wholesale domestic spying and conduct torture—there is no reason to believe it would respect legal restrictions against the use of military force at home.
Not only are these domestically deployed troops being trained in the use of “crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them” and “may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control,” but according to the Army Times, they are also “working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.” In other words, the Army is now in the clear-cutting business!
The ACLU has demanded information from the U.S. government regarding “reports that an active military unit has been deployed inside the U.S. to help with ‘civil unrest’ and ‘crowd control’ – matters traditionally handled by civilian authorities,” filing a FOIA request.
Then, on top of these domestic deployments, there is the report entitled “Known Unknowns: Unconventional ‘Strategic Shocks’ in Defense Strategy Development” from the U.S. War College’s Strategic Studies Institute. As Jim Meyers of Newsmax.com reports, the report “discusses the use of American troops to quell civil unrest brought about by a worsening economic crisis” and “warns that the U.S. military must prepare for a ‘violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States’ that could be provoked by ‘unforeseen economic collapse’ or ‘loss of functioning political and legal order.’”
John Crudele reports for the New York Post that the Pentagon is “ready to handle ‘unforeseen economic collapse’ and the ‘rapid dissolution of public order in all or significant parts of the US.’” Mike Sunnucks reports for the Phoenix Business Journal that the “new report by the U.S. Army War College talks about the possibility of Pentagon resources and troops being used should the economic crisis lead to civil unrest, such as protests against businesses and government or runs on beleaguered banks.”
Nathan Freier, recently retired Army lieutenant colonel, War College professor, and author of the report, writes:
Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities in extremis to defend basic domestic order … An American government and defense establishment lulled into complacency by a long-secure domestic order would be forced to rapidly divest some or most external security commitments in order to address rapidly expanding human insecurity at home.
DoD might be forced by circumstances to put its broad resources at the disposal of civil authorities to contain and reverse violent threats to domestic tranquility. Under the most extreme circumstances, this might include use of military force against hostile groups inside the United States. Further, DoD would be, by necessity, an essential enabling hub for the continuity of political authority in a multi-state or nationwide civil conflict or disturbance.
As Jim Meyers reports, “the 130-year-old Posse Comitatus Act restricts the military’s role in domestic law enforcement. But a 1994 Defense Department Directive allows military commanders to take emergency actions in domestic situations to save lives, prevent suffering or mitigate great property damage.”
This is the Endgame
Even the elite are on edge. Former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has warned of riots within the United States. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has also warned of “riots and unrest.”
Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot, and Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries, has identified a series of key steps would-be dictators take to close down a more or less “open” society, a blueprint for turning representative republics into outright fascist dictatorships. These steps were present in the development every fascist state in modern history, and every society that displayed all of them eventually became a fascist dictatorship. All are now present in America.
No discussion of the emerging American police state would be complete without a mention of last year’s Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The RNC 8 are being charged with “Conspiracy to Riot in the Furtherance of Terrorism,” and are literally being held accountable for the actions of other individuals. For more on the conventions, check out the documentaries Ground Noise & Static and Terrorizing Dissent, both available online.
Recent years have also seen the emergence of the Green Scare, targeting earth and animal liberationists and labeling them as “terrorists” under such draconian legislation as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). While environmental activists are receiving higher sentences than al Qaeda operatives, the FBI also arrested four animal rights activists on “terrorism” charges under AETA, for chalking, leafleting, and wearing masks while protesting. More recently, the feds arrested 2 animal rights activists in Utah and are charging them as “terrorists” under AETA for releasing mink. The industries of exploitation, in other words, are actively co-conspiring with the government to create legislation designed to maintain the status quo and protect their “right” to exploit and torture animals for profit.
That corporate pimps and whores like MTV are warning of such things, and that YouTube is censoring it, speaks to the gravity of the situation. The elite are fracturing and factionalizing.
Taken all together, these developments point towards the presence and continual emergence of an American police state. But this is only the United States. All over the world, similar developments are taking place. In virtually all “developed” countries, the surveillance state is steadily on the rise. In America, there is also the North American Union (NAU) and the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), which aim to establish a common market and dissolve trade and security barriers (as opposed to the free movement of human beings) between the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Stephen Lendman describes the SPP as “a tri-national agreement, below the radar, for greater economic, political, and security integration with secret business and government working groups devising binding policies with no public knowledge or legislative debate.” “In short,” he continues, “it’s a military-backed corporate coup d’etat against the sovereignty of three nations, their populations and legislative bodies. It’s a dagger through the heart of democratic freedom in all three, yet the public is largely unaware of what’s happening.”
We would be mistaken to believe that these tendencies towards fascism are the result of specific individuals and administrations, just as we would be mistaken to believe that the State will ever sanction any form of dissent and resistance that truly threatens their status quo. The exigencies of centralized authority and power are systemic, rather than personal. The beauty of Obama is that the higher people put their hopes in him, the greater will be their ultimate feeling of betrayal and disappointment. This, perhaps, will spur the populous towards true direct action and self-liberation.
It Is Time
To answer the question posited in the title of this article: my conclusion is that—considering the developments reviewed in this article—yes, America is already a police state. For now, it remains one that prefers to pacify the population through the use of coerced consent and propaganda, but it will remain so only so long as the populous allows themselves to continue to be enslaved and exploited, their land bases destroyed for the profit of the few. In the end, they will resort to killing us. Mark my words. They have done it in the past, and they continue to do it elsewhere today. Soon, they will do it in America.
As the global resistance continues to unfold, so will the repressive responses of the State apparatus. We can expect escalated attacks against our communities of resistance as we escalate our revolt against this culture of death and destruction.
We must develop relationships based upon affinity and communities capable of withstanding the onslaught of the repressive mechanisms of the State and transnational capital. We must develop the networks and connections necessary to survive the endgame of the elite’s psychotic obsession with total authority, power, and control. We must free ourselves from the mechanisms of dependency that keep us suckling at the teat of systemic global ecocide. We must establish autonomous communities of active resistance and stand in firm defiance against the destruction of our world and the precariousness of our lives. The best time was yesterday. The second best time is now.
Nathan Coe is a guerrilla journalist and rebel insurgent residing in the mountains of Southwest Colorado, who also works with SW(A)RM, subMedia, and Indymedia. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his blog at ShiftShapers.gnn.tv