Viewpoint: Senate bill threat to liberty

July 1, 1993

Viewpoint: Senate bill threat to liberty

By Joe Baker

Senate bill threat to liberty

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

In its haste to upgrade national security, our Congress is very close to riding roughshod over our remaining civil liberties.

A case in point is Senate Bill 1510, recently introduced by Sen. Tom Daeschle. This bill, if passed in its present form, will wipe out our democratic republic as we know it. It has already had a first reading, and there have been no amendments.

Its definition of anti-terrorism is extremely broad. Under provisions of this measure, a non-profit organization or other group and its members can have their assets seized by the government for supporting any act or cause that the government considers terrorist activity. Political activities allowed before this bill can be retroactively termed terrorist by the government and supporters may be charged with terrorist and criminal offenses.

That little word “retroactively” is the explosive charge. It wipes out the Statute of Limitations for a number of past offenses where there was no injury to anyone. With this measure, any offense alleged to have put someone “at risk” could be used by federal or state prosecutors to charge an individual with a terrorist act, even 30 years after the statutory period has run out.

Once constitutional protections are wiped out, the government can easily manufacture evidence to prosecute anyone they choose under SB1510.

There will be no defense against asset forfeiture after this bill becomes law. Government agencies can seize anyone’s property or funds, from non-profit or other organizations to individuals. They will not have to disclose any evidence for doing so. The government will simply argue that such disclosure would compromise national security.

Another nice provision in this misconceived fascist stew is paying huge rewards to unnamed informants if arrests and forfeiture of assets results from their information.

If your house or other property is taken under a claim of national security, forget about ever getting it back. If the informant alleges somebody in your house said something out of line, such as a dissenting opinion on government policy, your house could be gone.

Despite the Constitution or any laws, rules

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or regulations, this bill would allow a government attorney to hire other, private attorneys as investigators or law enforcement agents. The government attorney would be authorized to furnish legal advice, direction and supervision on conducting undercover activities.

This, in part, is how that section reads: “…any attorney employed as an investigator or other law enforcement agent by the Department of Justice, who is not authorized to represent the United States in criminal or law enforcement litigation or to supervise such proceedings, may participate in such activities, even though such activities may require the use of deceit or misrepresentation.”

Doesn’t that make you feel good about attorneys? Does it boost your sense of trust in the legal community?

SB1510 further declares no violation of ethical, disciplinary or professional conduct rules shall prevent any “evidence” from being admitted to federal criminal proceedings.

Where is the difference between this idea and legislation adopted by Adolf Hitler in the early 1930s after his goons set fire to the Reichstag, the seat of the German democratic government?

The chaos that resulted terrified the German Jews, and they voted for Hitler’s law. Too late, they discovered he could (and did) use it against them.

If you know your American history, you remember reading about the sedition laws of the 1790s. They later were declared unconstitutional. This bill is worse. It is bad legislation and a direct threat to what this country stands for.

Under this bill, if it becomes law, your church, the Rotary Club, the Jaycees, and you, can be nailed by the government if they choose.

If you contribute money or effort to a group that say, sent food and medicine to Cuba or protested nuclear weapons 40 years ago, the government might decide that is somehow linked to a terrorist organization. In that event, everything you have would be taken.

The government will claim that’s very unlikely to happen if you behave yourself. Bear in mind that thousands of persons are in our prisons today because of paid informers. Soviet Communism used this system to identify and round up dissidents.

All it takes is for such an informant to give testimony that the Sierra Club or the Red Cross or United Way or some other group is supporting terrorists. Or, if one member of a group actually does aid terrorists, then all members of that group are subject to prison and forfeiture of their property.

With that kind of fascist atmosphere, nobody will donate to any non-profit or activist group.

If this bill becomes law, we can forget about protests, whether by mail or through demonstrations. Democracy will be gone. We will be living in a police state: secure but slaves.

We need to contact our senators and representatives and tell them to kill this ill-designed legislation before it kills our freedoms. Congress must take greater care in improving national security, not to dismantle the protections of our Constitution.

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald can be reached at: B40-5 Dirksen Bldng., Washington, D.C. 20510. Sen. Richard Durbin is at: 267 Russell Building, Washington, D.C. 20510. Rep. Don Manzullo’s address is: 409 Cannon Building, Washington, D.C.20515.

You can read this frightening piece of work on the Internet. Go to: http://Thomas.loc.gov, then go to the 107th Congress and SB1510.

Let’s head this one off before it advances to the law books. Consider the tone and disregard the White House’s recent comment: “Watch what you say.”

Congressman Manzullo and Senators Durbin and Fitzgerald, we and history are watching you. We hope you look out for us and our future and reject this bill. The Constitution and our freedom is not a matter for compromise, no matter what the crisis or the guise under which an attempt on our liberty is made.

As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We all have to fight this bill.

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