Spin out of attention

Spin out of attention

By By Frank Schier, Editor & Publisher

By Frank Schier

Editor and Publisher

Remember this section from last week’s editorial on the Senate Select Committee’s closed hearings on U.S intelligence failing to warn or act on 9-11?—“Meanwhile, Dubya said over the weekend, ‘The War on Terror will not be won on the defensive.’ Oh, boy. What’s he going to do next?”

Well, the very same day the hearings began, on prime-time television, Bush announced that he was going to make Homeland Security a Cabinet-level department, and bring into that new department all of the following: the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Transportation Security Administration—and all defenses for our ports, water supply, counter-biological terrorism measures, the Internet and computer systems—100 agencies and 11 Cabinet-level departments would be affected.

Whew, does the Bush administration know how to refocus our attention, or what? That’s a BIG proposal!

Rather naturally, the lead stories of the electronic media and headlines of newspapers across the country focused on the new Department of Homeland Security, rather than focusing on the congressional hearings on the Bush’s administrations failings around 9-11.

To compound this unusual story emerging on Thursday, June 6, was the fact that Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge’s report on the agency and its goals was not scheduled to be released until the beginning of July.

Obviously, the move was a month early.

Yes, indeed, the Bush administration can move really fast if it wants to “spin,” er, “refocus” the public’s attention.

Having participated in more than one “refocus,” Michael McCurry, President Clinton’s press secretary, was quoted in the Chicago Tribune: “Any White House is very smart to jump in front of what they think the headline tomorrow will be. The president’s decision to address the country gives the White House control of the news cycle.”

The national media lost control of its own focus of attention and acquiesced to Bush’s direction. Have you seen anything about the hearings or the failure of our intelligence agencies since last week?

Another oddity stands in the fact that the Bush administration was opposed to such a consolidation of powers. A proposal very similar to Bush’s new one had been voiced by members of Congress, but it had been rejected, until the hearings.

In the meantime, questions of endless debate remain largely unexamined by the rubber-stamping national media. Is this consolidation of such vast powers wise? What will be the cost? Where will the Department of Homeland Security be located and at what cost? Will the very “turf-conscious” agencies be able to combine in an effective manner, or will our security suffer from being awash in a sea of bureaucratic reshuffling and power struggles? Will “Homeland Security” concerns stifle the normal acceptance and channels of these reorganized agencies?

The most pertinent question has been voiced by civil rights groups: Will all immigrants now be considered terrorists? And if this agency will be the third largest, after the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs, aren’t we building a federal bureaucracy focused on military and police state powers?

Bush’s new department, coupled with the USA Patriot Act, should make anyone nervous about their civil liberties falling before the steam roller of national security.

Many people boil at any critical thinking about the ever-increasing power of the federal government and say that such criticism is unpatriotic. Then they wave the flag. Remember, the flag of the United States is a very honorable symbol of freedom and of all our constitutional rights.

Yes, anyone who wraps themselves in the flag should remember that the flag belongs on a pole, flying high above us, to inspire us; the flag is not a shawl, coat or blinders.

President Bush wants us to keep the blinders on, and he is waving the flag of terrorism and fear to distract everyone and any investigation. Don’t be a blind patriot. Hold him and his administration accountable for their actions. After all, Bush himself said he wants to hold elementary school teachers accountable for educating our children.

What about his accountability for 9-11 and 3,000 dead Americans and citizens from around the world? What did Bush or Cheney know and when?

Yes, the FBI and CIA failed, and the American media is starting to report on that. Their directors Robert Mueller and George Tenet should be fired.

But what of the warnings that came from Russia, Germany, Britain, and Israel, as widely reported in the world press? Where is the reporting in the American media on that story?

That story, like the story on the Senate hearings, is spinning out of our attention, at the direction of the White House through a dizzy and cowardly pack of journalists.

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