THE EROSION OF CIVIL LIBERTIES
By Paul Thompson
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Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
|Day of 9/11
Bush on 9/11
This story is so complicated and long, I've tried to break it into threads of different colors to make it easier to digest, as well as the main page, the page for the day of September 11, and the abridged timeline.
Central Asian oil, Enron and the Afghanistan pipelines.
For a separate page of these entries only, click
Information that should have shown what kind of attack al-Qaeda would make. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
US preparing for a war with Afghanistan before 9/11, increasing control of Asia before and since. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Incompetence, bad luck, and/or obstruction of justice. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Suggestions of advanced knowledge that an attack would take place on or around 9/11. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Cover-up, lies, and/or contradictions. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Israeli "art student" spy ring, Israeli foreknowledge evidence. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Anthrax attacks and microbiologist deaths. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Pakistani ISI and/or opium drug connections. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Bin Laden family, Saudi Arabia corruption and support of terrorists, connections to Bush. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Erosion of civil liberties and erection of a police state. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
September 11, 2001 (M): It is later revealed that only hours after the 9/11 attacks, a US "shadow government" is formed. Initially deployed "on the fly", executive directives on government continuity in the face of a crisis dating back to the Reagan administration are put into effect. Approximately 100 midlevel officials are moved to underground bunkers and stay there 24 hours a day. Officials rotate in and out on a 90-day cycle. When its existence is revealed, some controversy arises because of the exclusion of any Democrats from it. In fact, top Congressional Democrats had never even heard of it until journalists broke the story months later. [Washington Post, 3/1/02, CBS, 3/2/02]
September 18, 2001 (B): The Justice Department publishes an interim regulation allowing non-citizens suspected of terrorism to be detained without charge for 48 hours or "an additional reasonable period of time" in the event of an "emergency or other extraordinary circumstance." [New York Times, 9/19/01 (C)] The new rule is used to hold hundreds indefinitely until the Patriot Act passes in October (see October 26, 2001), providing more solid grounds to hold non-citizens without charge.
September 19, 2001 (D): The first draft of what will later be called the Patriot Act is introduced to Congress. [Anti-Terrorism Act, 9/19/01] However, due to Congressional opposition of its broad powers, the act is revised and reintroduced on October 2 (see October 2, 2001 (B)). [Houston Chronicle, 10/7/01] Given that it normally takes months to prepare a large piece of legislation hundreds of pages long, was this act being prepared before 9/11?
September 20, 2001:
Bush announces the new cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security, to be led
by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. [AP,
8/19/02] Ridge later becomes secretary of a
new Homeland Security Department (see November
25, 2002). Accepting the
post, Ridge says, "Liberty is the most precious gift we offer our citizens."
Responding to this comment, the Village Voice opines, "Could
Tom Ridge have said anything scarier or more telling as he accepted the post
of homeland security czar? Trying to strike the bell of liberty, he sounds its
death knell, depicting government not as the agent of the people's will, but
as an imperious power with the authority to give us our democratic freedoms.
Which means, of course, that it can also take them away." [Village
September 26, 2001 (B): Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warns, "There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do...." [AP, 9/26/01 (C)] Fleischer was responding to comments made by Bill Maher, the host of the discussion/comedy show Politically Incorrect. Maher said the hijackers were not cowards but that it was cowardly for the US to launch cruise missiles on targets thousands of miles away. [New York Times, 9/28/01 (B)] Many advertisers and affiliate stations pull their support of the show in response. [Washington Post, 9/29/01 (B)] ABC cancels Maher's show at the end of its season because of the controversy. [Toronto Star, 6/26/02] Several journalists are fired around the same time for criticizing Bush. Fleischer's comments and the general chill on free speech are widely criticized by major newspapers (for instance, [New York Times, 9/29/01 (B), Washington Post, 9/29/01 (B), Dallas Morning News, 10/4/01].)
October 2, 2001 (B): The "anti-terrorism" Patriot Act is introduced in Congress, but is not well received by all. [Patriot Act, 10/2/01] One day later, Senate Majority Leader and future anthrax target Tom Daschle (D) says he doubts the Senate will take up this bill in the one week timetable the administration wants. As head of the Senate, Daschle has great power to block or slow passage of the bill. Attorney General Ashcroft accuses Senate Democrats of dragging their feet. [Washington Post, 10/3/01] On October 4, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and future anthrax target Patrick Leahy (D) accuses the Bush administration of reneging on an agreement on the anti-terrorist bill. Leahy is in a key position to block or slow the bill. Some warn that "lawmakers are overlooking constitutional flaws in their rush to meet the administration's timetable." Two days later, Ashcroft complains about "the rather slow pace…over his request for law enforcement powers… Hard feelings remain." [Washington Post, 10/4/01] The anthrax letters to Daschle and Leahy are sent out on October 9 and difficulties in passing the Act continue (see October 9, 2001). Could Daschle and Leahy have been targeted by some person or entity who wanted to see the Patriot Act pass?
October 12, 2001 (B): Attorney General Ashcroft encourages federal agencies to deny requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In a memo to all government departments and agencies, he states, "When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part, you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions." This is a dramatic shift from the Clinton Administration, which instructed federal officials to grant all information requests unless there was "foreseeable harm" in doing so. [Washington Post, 12/2/02] The New York Times notes that while this policy was announced after 9/11, "it had been planned well before the attacks." [New York Times, 1/3/03]
October 20, 2001: The New York Times reports that, although 830 people have been arrested in the 9/11 terrorism investigation (a number that eventually exceeds between 1,200 and 2,000 (see November 5, 2001 (B)), there is no evidence that anyone now in custody was a conspirator in the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, "none of the nearly 100 people still being sought by the [FBI] is seen as a major suspect." Of all the people arrested, only four, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ayub Ali Khan, Mohammed Azmath, and Nabil al-Marabh, are likely connected to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 10/21/01] Three of those are later cleared of ties to al-Qaeda. After being kept in solitary confinement for more than eight months without seeing a judge or being assigned a lawyer, al-Marabh pleads guilty to the minor charge of entering the United States illegally (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002). [CBC, 8/27/02, Washington Post, 6/12/02] On September 12, 2002, after a year in solitary confinement and four months before he was able to contact a lawyer, Mohammed Azmath pleads guilty to one count of credit card fraud, and is released with time served. Ayub Ali Khan, whose real name is apparently Syed Gul Mohammad Shah, is given a longer sentence for credit card fraud, but is released and deported by the end of 2002 (see September 11, 2001 (K)). [Village Voice, 9/25/02, New York Times, 12/31/02] By December 2002, only 6 are known to still be in custody, and none have been charged with any terrorist acts (see December 11, 2002 (D)). On September 24, 2001, Newsweek reported that "the FBI has privately estimated that more than 1,000 individuals - most of them foreign nationals - with suspected terrorist ties are currently living in the United States." [Newsweek, 9/24/01] With the exception of Moussaoui, who was arrested before 9/11, it appears not one person of the 1,200 arrested has been connected to al-Qaeda. What happened to the 1,000 or more terrorists?
October 26, 2001:
Bush signs the Patriot Act into law. Here are some of its provisions:
1) Non-citizens can be detained and deported if they provide "assistance" for lawful activities of any group the government chooses to call a terrorist organization. Under this provision the secretary of state can designate any group that has ever engaged in violent activity as a terrorist organization. Representative Patsy Mink notes that in theory supporters of Greenpeace could now be convicted for supporting terrorism. [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12/01]
2) Immigrants can be detained indefinitely, even if they are found to not have any links to terrorism. They can be detained indefinitely for immigration violations or if the attorney general decides their activities pose a danger to national security. They never need to be given a trial or even a hearing on their status. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/0]
3) Internet service providers can be ordered to reveal the web sites and e-mail addresses that a suspect has communicated to or visited. The FBI need only inform a judge that the information is relevant to an investigation. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/02, Village Voice, 11/26/01]
4) It "lays the foundation for a domestic intelligence-gathering system of unprecedented scale and technological prowess." [Washington Post, 11/4/01] It allows the government to access confidential credit reports, school records, and other records, without consent or notification. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/02] All of this information can now be given to the CIA, in violation of the CIA's mandate prohibiting it from spying within the US. [Village Voice, 11/26/01]
5) Financial institutions are encouraged to disclose possible violations of law or "suspicious activities" by any client. The institution is prohibited from notifying the person involved that it made such a report. The term "suspicious" is not defined, so it is up to the financial institutions to determine when to send such a report.
6) Federal agents can easily obtain warrants to review a library patron's reading and computer habits (see also January 2002 (E)). [Village Voice, 2/22/02]
7) The government can refuse to reveal how evidence is collected against a suspected terrorist defendant. [Tampa Tribune, 4/6/03]
The law passes without public debate. [Village Voice, 11/9/01, Village Voice, 11/26/01] Even though it ultimately took six weeks to pass the law, there was no hearing or congressional debate. [Salon, 3/24/03] Congressman Barney Frank (D) says, "This was the least democratic process for debating questions fundamental to democracy I have ever seen. A bill drafted by a handful of people in secret, subject to no committee process, comes before us immune from amendment." [Village Voice, 11/9/01] Only 66 congresspeople, and one senator, Russell Feingold (D), vote against it. Few in Congress are able to read summaries, let alone the fine print, before voting on it. [Los Angeles Times, 10/30/01] Feingold says, "The new law goes into a lot of areas that have nothing to do with terrorism and have a lot to do with the government and the FBI having a wish list of things they want to do...." [Village Voice, 11/9/01] Supporters point out that some provisions will expire in four years, but in fact most provisions will not expire. [Chicago Tribune, 11/1/01] One year later, criticism of the law grows. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/02] Dozens of cities later pass resolutions criticizing the Patriot Act (see January 12, 2003 (B)).
27, 2001: Suspected terrorist Mohammed Haydar
Zammar (see March
1997) travels to Morocco. Not long after, perhaps in December, he is
arrested by Moroccan police with US assistance. Though
he is a German citizen and under investigation by Germany, German intelligence
remain unaware of his arrest, and only learn about it from the newspapers in
June 2002. He is sent to Syria, where there are formal charges against
him. Supposedly, Zammar now claims he recruited Atta and others into the al-Qaeda
Hamburg cell. [Washington
Post, 6/19/02] It is widely suspected that the US
arranged that Zammar be sent to Syria so he could be more thoroughly interrogated
using torture. The Germans are angry that the US
has been submitting questions for Zammar and learning answers from Syria, and
haven't informed Germany of what they've learned.
Monitor, 7/26/02, Telegraph,
6/20/02] Months after the story of Zammar's detention is made public, the
Germans are still complaining that the US is not telling them much (see October
October 31, 2001: The Justice Department issues a regulation that allows eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations in federal prisons wherever there is "reasonable suspicion ... to believe that a particular inmate may use communications with attorneys to further or facilitate acts of terrorism"; the regulation requires written notice to the inmate and attorney, "except in the case of prior court authorization." Officials no longer have to show probable cause or get a court order. The Los Angeles Times says the new policy is "sharply criticized by a broad array of lawyers and lawmakers." [Los Angeles Times, 11/10/01, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12/01]
November 1, 2001: Bush signs an Executive Order which limits public access to papers of all presidents since 1980. A 1978 law provided for the release of presidential papers 12 years after the president leaves office, so Reagan's papers would have been released next year. Reagan issued an order in 1989 that called for disclosure of most of his official papers 12 years after he left office but under the new executive order the papers can be kept secret even if the president in question wants them released. Bush Jr.'s father was Vice President during the Reagan administration. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 11/8/01] The Guardian notes that now Bush's "personal papers detailing the decision-making process in the current war on terrorism could remain secret in perpetuity." [Guardian, 11/2/01] In March 2001, Bush signed a temporary orders delaying the release of these papers for 90 days, and then signed for another 90 day delay before signing this order making the change permanent. [New York Times, 1/3/03]
November 5, 2001 (B): The Justice Department announces that it has put 1,182 people into secret custody since 9/11. Most all of them are from the Middle East or South Asia. [New York Times, 8/3/02] After this it stops releasing new numbers, but human rights groups believe the total number could be as high as 2,000. [Independent, 2/26/02] Apparently this is roughly the peak for secret arrests, and eventually most are released, and none have been charged with any terrorist acts (see July 3, 2002 and December 11, 2002 (D)). Their names still have not been revealed (see August 2, 2002 (C)).
November 13, 2001 (B): Bush issues an executive order authorizing the creation of military tribunals to try non-citizens alleged to be involved in international terrorism. The president will decide which defendants will be tried by military tribunals. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld will appoint each panel and set its rules and procedures, including the level of proof needed for a conviction. There is no provision for an appeal to US civil courts or international tribunals. Only the president or the secretary of defense has the authority to overturn a decision. [Washington Post, 11/14/01] Such military tribunals were in the Civil War and again in World War II. [CNN, 11/14/01] But experts say that while there is precedent, aspects of the order could be unconstitutional. [Los Angeles Times, 11/14/01] Additional procedural details are released in March 2002 that satisfy some critics, but others remain alarmed. [Los Angeles Times, 3/21/02, Village Voice, 3/25/02] The New York Times writes, "There is still no practical or legal justification for having the tribunals." The tribunals "still constitute a separate, inferior system of justice, shielded from independent judicial review." [New York Times, 3/22/02 (B)] A year after the order is issued, the Washington Post confirms that "the Bush administration is developing a parallel legal system in which terrorism suspects - US citizens and non-citizens alike - may be investigated, jailed, interrogated, tried and punished without legal protections guaranteed by the ordinary system." [Washington Post, 12/1/02]
Late November, 2001: Ironically, it appears that even as the US is allowing some Taliban to secretly fly out of Afghanistan (see November 14-25, 2001) it is allowing a brutal massacre of others. The Sunday Herald says, "It seems established, almost beyond doubt, that US soldiers oversaw and took part in horrific crimes against humanity," which resulted in the death of thousands of Taliban supporters who surrendered after Kunduz fell to the Northern Alliance. The documentary Massacre at Mazar exposes this news widely in Europe, but the massacre remains virtually unreported in the US. [Sunday Herald, 7/16/02]
December 6, 2001 (B): Speaking before a Senate committee, Attorney General Ashcroft says, "To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil." [CNN, 12/7/01]
January 2002 (E): The Patriot Act permits federal agents to secretly obtain information from booksellers and librarians about customers' and patrons' reading, internet and book-buying habits, merely by alleging that the records are relevant to an anti-terrorism investigation. The act prohibits librarians and booksellers from revealing these requests, so they cannot be challenged in court. [Newsday, 9/16/02] A University of Illinois study concludes that federal agents have sought records from about 220 libraries nationwide since September and about this time. [Miami Herald, 9/1/02] The Justice Department refuses to say how many times it has invoked this Patriot Act provision (see also June 13, 2002). [Observer, 3/16/03 (B)] But Assistant Attorney General Daniel Bryant says that people who borrow or buy books surrender their right of privacy. [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/10/03] Some libraries and bookstores unhappy with the law begin to fight back in a number of ways. Some libraries have posted signs warning that the government may be monitoring their users' reading habits. [Reuters, 3/11/03 (B)] Thousands of libraries are destroying records so agents have nothing to seize. [New York Times, 4/7/03] Many librarians polled say they would break the law and deny orders to disclose reading records. [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/10/03]
January 11, 2002: The first of about 600 hundred suspected al-Qaeda and/or Taliban prisoners from the war in Afghanistan are transferred to Camp X-Ray, a detention facility in US-controlled Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is reported that the prisoners are hooded, shackled, and possibly drugged during their flight to Cuba. [Guardian, 1/11/02] Pictures of prisoners being transferred in conditions clearly in violation of international law are later leaked, prompting an outcry. But rather than investigating the inhumane transfer, the Pentagon begins investigating how the pictures were leaked. [AP, 11/9/02] The prisoners are sent to this base because of a historical quirk: The base is owned by Cuba but controlled by the US, so the prisoners are in a legal limbo outside of any US law. [Globe and Mail, 9/5/02] Furthermore, the US argues the prisoners are "enemy combatants" rather than prisoners of war, implying that they do not have all the rights assigned to POWs under the Geneva Convention. [Guardian, 9/9/02] Senior British officials privately call the treatment of prisoners "scandalous," and one calls the refusal to follow the Geneva Convention "not benchmarks of a civilized society." [Guardian, 6/13/02] The commander of the base later suggests that some prisoners could end up staying there for decades (see also April 30, 2002 (B) and October 28, 2002). [AFP, 9/13/02]
Mid-January 2002: Vice Admiral John Poindexter begins running a shadowy new government agency called the Information Awareness Office. [New York Times, 2/13/02, Federal Computer Week, 10/17/02] Poindexter, President Reagan's National Security Adviser, is known for his five felony convictions of lying to Congress, destroying documents, and obstructing Congress in its investigation of his role in the mid-1980s Iran-Contra affair. Later his convictions were overturned on a technicality. [Los Angeles Times, 11/17/02 (B)] Far from apologizing, Poindexter said it was his duty to lie to Congress. [Newsday, 12/1/02] The New York Times notes that his new agency "is developing technologies to give federal officials instant access to vast new surveillance and information-analysis systems." The new office is part of DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Poindexter was also known for his controversial role in shifting control of computer security to the military in the 1980s. Says Marc Rotenberg, former counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee, "It took three administrations and both political parties over a decade to correct those mistakes." [New York Times, 2/13/02] Surprisingly, Poindexter's appointment is little noticed until later in 2002 when the Total Information Awareness program is revealed (see March 2002 (B) and November 9, 2002). Incidentally, several others involved in the Iran-Contra affair also find jobs in the Bush Administration, including Elliott Abrams, John Negroponte, and Otto Reich. [Observer, 12/8/02]
March 2002: Beginning at least by this time, some political activists begin noticing they are being subjected to extra surveillance and security checks when flying in the US. Numerous government agencies later admit they are using a "no fly" list that bans certain people from flying. The government says about 1,000 names are on the list. It is also admitted that there is a second list that subjects anyone on it to increased security every time they fly. A number of agencies, including the CIA, FBI, INS, and State Department, admit that they have added names to such lists, but no agency admits controlling the list. There are no guidelines to determine who gets on the lists and no procedures for getting off a list if someone is wrongfully on it. Airport security personnel note that the lists seem to be netting mostly priests, elderly nuns, Green Party campaign operatives, left-wing journalists, right-wing activists, and people affiliated with Arab or Arab-American groups. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/27/02, Salon, 11/15/02]
March 2002 (B): The US military internally announces the creation of a new global data collection system called Total Information Awareness. The existence of this program is not reported until August 2002 [Wired, 8/7/02], and not widely known until November (see November 9, 2002). Interestingly, the early accounts of this program suggest its budget is a "significant amount" of $96 million [Federal Computer Week, 10/17/02], and not the $10 million later reported, [Guardian, 11/23/02] It is also reported that "parts" of the program "are already operational" whereas later it is said to be only in the conceptual stages of development. [Federal Computer Week, 10/17/02]
April 30, 2002 (B): The US begins transferring prisoners from the Afghan war from Camp X-Ray to Camp Delta. Both are in US-controlled Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but Camp X-Ray was little more than metal wire cages and Camp Delta is made of proper buildings. [BBC, 4/30/02] Conditions in the new facility are considered more humane, but the prisoners are still not named, not allowed to contact their families, and are not given the rights of prisoners of war (see also January 11, 2002 and October 28, 2002). [Globe and Mail, 9/5/02, Guardian, 9/9/02] Halliburton, Vice President Cheney's former company, has been given the contract to build Camp Delta even though it is estimated military engineers could do the job for about half the price. [New York Times, 7/13/02]
May 3, 2002: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget informs federal agencies that they can use private contractors instead of the Government Printing Office (GPO). This is supposedly done to save money, but the GPO already sends nearly two-thirds of its work to the private contractor with the lowest bid. Its practical effect is that federal agencies will be able to edit and delete embarrassing passages from their documents. [Los Angeles Times, 11/8/02, San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19/02] The Los Angeles Times calls the planned switch "a threat to democracy." [Los Angeles Times, 11/8/02] In September 2002, Congress orders executive branch agencies to continue to use the GPO for its printing. But the Bush Administration says agencies could ignore the order, claiming Congress doesn't have power over the matter. [Government Executive Magazine, 9/27/02] This battle continues, but apparently, so far agencies continue to use the GPO.
May 30, 2002 (C): Attorney General Ashcroft relaxes decades-old rules limiting government agents from monitoring domestic religious and political groups. Now, FBI agents can attend political rallies or religious meetings without evidence of a crime or advance approval from superiors. The new rules also permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/31/02]
June 10, 2002: Attorney General Ashcroft announces the arrest of Abdullah al-Mujahir, a.k.a. Jose Padilla. He claims that Padilla was part of an al-Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a US city, and supposedly Padilla was scouting bomb targets when arrested. Padilla, a US citizen, is being held as an "enemy combatant," allowing him to be held indefinitely. [Guardian 6/11/02, PBS Newshour, 6/11/02] But almost immediately, doubts grow about this story. The London Times says that it is "beyond dispute" that the timing of the announcement of his arrest was "politically inspired." Padilla was actually arrested a month earlier, on May 8. [London Times, 6/13/02] It is widely believed that Ashcroft made the arrest announcement "only to divert attention from Intelligence Committee inquiries into the FBI and CIA handling of 9/11." [Village Voice, 6/12/02, Independent, 6/12/02, BBC, 6/13/02, Washington Post, 6/13/03] Bush soon privately chastises Ashcroft for overstating claims about Padilla. [Guardian, 8/15/02] The government attorneys apparently could not get an indictment out of a New York grand jury and, rather than let him go, made Padilla an enemy combatant. [Village Voice, 6/12/02] It later comes out that the FBI found no evidence that he was preparing a dirty bomb attack and little evidence to suggest that he had any support from al-Qaeda, or any ties to al-Qaeda cells in the US. Yet the Justice Department maintains that its view of Padilla "remains unchanged," and that he is a "serious and continuing threat." [Guardian, 8/15/02] Because Padilla is a US citizen, he cannot be tried in a military court. So apparently he will simply be held indefinitely. It is pointed out that any American could be declared an enemy combatant and never tried or have that status questioned. [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/11/02, Washington Post, 6/11/02] The Washington Post says, "If that's the case, nobody's constitutional rights are safe." [Washington Post, 6/11/02] Despite the evidence that Padilla's case is grossly overstated, the government won't even allow him access to a lawyer (see December 4, 2002 (B) and March 11, 2003).
June 13, 2002: Several congresspeople submit a list of 50 questions to Attorney General Ashcroft, asking him how the Patriot Act is being implemented (see October 26, 2001). [July 14, 2002] For instance, they ask, "How many times has the department requested records from libraries, bookstores and newspapers? How many roving wiretaps has the department requested?" Ashcroft refuses to answer many of the questions, even though he is legally required to do so. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/02] Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D) fails to receive any response to dozens of letters he writes to Ashcroft, and other senators complain of a complete stonewall. [Washington Post, 8/21/02] In March 2003, senators continue to complain that Ashcroft still has not provided the oversight information about the Patriot Act that he is required to give by law. [ABC News, 3/12/03]
July 3, 2002: The Justice Department announces that only 74 of the 752 people detained on immigration charges after 9/11 are still in US custody. By December, only six of them remain in custody (see December 11, 2002 (D)). Hundreds more were detained on other charges or as material witnesses, but no numbers pertaining to them have been released. 611 were subject to secret hearings. Senator Carl Levin (D), who had requested the figures, says, "It took the Justice Department more than three months to produce a partial response to my letter." But the answers raise "a number of additional questions, including why closed hearings were necessary for so many people." Though many were held for months, "the vast majority were never charged with anything other than overstaying a visa." [New York Times, 7/11/02] All the deportation hearings for these people have been held in secret as well. Some say the government is cloaking its activities out of embarrassment, because none of these people have turned out to have any ties to terrorism. [New York Times, 7/11/02, Detroit Free Press, 7/18/02]
July 12, 2002 (B): US prosecutors are arguing in court that the government should be able to block the 9/11 victims' relatives from obtaining sensitive airline information in wrongful death suits alleging inadequate security. The airlines have been named in at least 10 wrongful death suits - now consolidated into one case. Even the airlines on the other side of the case say their lawyers have not been able to learn "basic information" from the government. [Reuters, 7/12/02]
July 22, 2002: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues a secret directive to Special Operations forces allowing them to "capture terrorists for interrogation or, if necessary, to kill them" anywhere in the world. [New Yorker, 12/16/02] Bush already issued a presidential finding authorizing the killing of terrorist leaders, but this increases such efforts. [New York Times, 12/15/02] However, Bush has not rescinded a presidential executive order dating from the 1970s that bans all assassinations, claiming that terrorists are military combatants. "Many past and present military and intelligence officials have expressed alarm" at the legality, wisdom, ethics, and effectiveness of the assassination program. Apparently much of the leadership of Special Operations is against it, worrying about the blowback effect. In February 2002, a Predator missile targeting someone intelligent agents thought was bin Laden hit its target, but killed three innocent Afghan farmers instead. [New Yorker, 12/16/02] The first successful assassination takes place in November (see November 3, 2002).
August 2, 2002 (C): A federal judge rules that the Bush administration must reveal the identities of the hundreds of people secretly arrested after the 9/11 attacks within 15 days. [Washington Post, 8/3/02 (B)] The judge calls the secret arrests "odious to a democratic society." The New York Times applauds the decision and notes that the government's argument that terrorist groups could exploit the release of the names makes no sense, because the detainees were allowed a phone call to notify anyone that they were being held. [New York Times, 8/6/02] Two weeks later, the same judge agrees to postpone the release of the names until an appeals court can rule on the matter. [New York Times, 8/16/02] The appeals court still has not ruled, so the names remain secret.
September 2002: The Customs Service intercepts a package sent via Federal Express from the Associated Press bureau in Manila to the AP office in Washington, and turns the contents over to the FBI. The FBI keeps the material, all unclassified and previously publicly disclosed, and fails to inform AP about this. It is claimed they do this to prevent the reporters from reporting their story, which is about government foreknowledge of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and ties with Ramzi Yousef and other terrorists in the Philippines. [AP, 3/12/03]
October 18, 2002 (C):
FBI Director Mueller says in a speech, "There is a continuum between those
who would express dissent and those who would do a terrorist act. Somewhere
along that continuum we have to begin to investigate. If we do not, we are not
doing our job. It is difficult for us to find a path between the two extremes.''
Jose Mercury News, 10/19/02] The comment receives little notice. Isn't
legal dissent completely different from terrorism?
October 28, 2002: Four prisoners are freed from Guantanamo Bay, the first of the 600 or so prisoners there to be released (see January 11, 2002 and April 30, 2002 (B)). The four, mostly elderly Afghan men, are released because they were determined not to be involved in al-Qaeda and posed no security threat. [BBC, 10/29/02] 19 more are released in March 2003. [BBC, 3/24/03] The prisoners are supposedly being kept there to be interrogated about what they know of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But it is reported that virtually none of the prisoners in Guantanamo have any useful information. One US official says, "[Guantanamo] is a dead end" for fresh intelligence information. According to the Washington Post, "Officials realize many of them had little intelligence value to begin with...." [Washington Post, 10/29/02] US officials privately concede that "perhaps as many as 100 other captives" are innocent of any connections to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but most of these still have not been released. Furthermore, not a single prisoner has been brought before a US military tribunal. Apparently this is to hide "a sorry fact: the US mostly netted Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters of only low to middling importance, bagging few of the real bad guys." [Time, 10/27/02] At least 59 were deemed to have no intelligence even before being sent to Cuba, but were nonetheless sent there, apparently because of bureaucratic inertia. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02 (B)]
November 3, 2002: A CIA-operated Predator drone fires a missile that destroys a carload of suspected al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. The target of the attack is Qaed Senyan al-Harethi, a top al-Qaeda operative, but five others are also killed, including American citizen Kamal Derwish. [Washington Post, 11/4/02, AP, 12/3/02] US officials say the CIA has the legal authority to target and kill American citizens it believes are working for al-Qaeda (see July 22, 2002). [AP, 12/3/02] Bush administration officials say Derwish was the ringleader of a terrorist cell in Lackawanna, New York. [Washington Post, 11/9/02] The CIA also has a "high-value target list" of about two dozen terrorist leaders it is authorized to assassinate, including bin Laden. [New York Times, 12/15/02] Many international lawyers and some foreign governments question the legality of the assassination. [Guardian, 11/6/02] Noting that in its battle against al-Qaeda, the US has effectively deemed the entire planet a combat zone, Scott Silliman, director of Duke University's Center on Law, Ethics and National Security says: "Could you put a Hellfire missile into a car in Washington, DC? ... The answer is yes, you could." But National Security Adviser Rice says, "No constitutional questions are raised here." [ABC, 12/3/02, Chicago Tribune, 11/24/02] A former high-level intelligence officer complains that Rumsfeld wants "to take guys out for political effect." Al-Harethi's was being tracked for weeks through his cell phone. [New Yorker, 12/16/02] The attack happens one day before mid-term elections in the US. Was the timing of this assassination done for its political effect?
November 9, 2002: The New York Times exposes the existence of John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness data collection program, begun in early 2002 (see Mid-January 2002 and March 2002 (B)). [New York Times, 11/9/02 (C)] Conservative columnist William Safire writes, "If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you: Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend - all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as 'a virtual, centralized grand database.' To this computerized dossier on your private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information that government has about you passport application, driver's license and bridge toll records, judicial and divorce records, complaints from nosy neighbors to the FBI, your lifetime paper trail plus the latest hidden camera surveillance and you have the supersnoop's dream: a 'Total Information Awareness' about every US citizen." [New York Times, 11/14/02] Poindexter says it will take years to realize his vision, but his office has already begun providing some technology to government agencies. [Washington Post, 11/12/02] The existence of this program, and the fact that Poindexter is running it, causes concern for many on both the left and right. [USA Today, 1/16/03] It is regularly called Orwellian, conjuring visions of 1984's Big Brother, and even supporters admit it sounds Orwellian. [Newsweek, 11/15/02, Los Angeles Times, 11/17/02 (B), Guardian, 11/23/02, Newsday, 12/1/02, New Yorker, 12/9/02, BBC, 12/12/02, Dallas Morning News, 12/16/02, Baltimore Sun, 1/5/03] The New York Times suggests, "Congress should shut down the program pending a thorough investigation." [New York Times, 11/18/02] Experts question not only its civil liberties implications, but also if it is even feasible. If it does work, would its database be swapped with errors that could not be removed? (See such problems in a much smaller database in March 2002.) [San Jose Mercury News, 12/26/02] However, many newspapers fail to report on the program at all, and ABC is the only network to report the story on prime time television. [ABC News, 11/25/02 (B), ABC News, 11/16/02] Despite so many objections, the program is included in the Homeland Security bill (see November 25, 2002), and only later somewhat curbed by Congress (see January 23, 2003).
November 24, 2002 (B): The Washington Post reports that the US is using an obscure statute to detain and investigate terrorism suspects without having to charge them with a crime. At least 44 people, some of them US citizens, have been held as "material witnesses." Some have been held for months, and some have been held in maximum-security conditions. Most in fact have never testified, even though that is supposedly why they were held. [Washington Post, 11/24/02]
November 25, 2002: President Bush signs legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is promoted to Secretary of Homeland Security (see September 20, 2001). The Department will consolidate nearly 170,000 workers from 22 agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the federal security guards in airports, and the Customs Service. [New York Times, 11/26/02, Los Angeles Times, 11/26/02] However, the FBI and CIA, the two most prominent anti-terrorism agencies, will not be part of Homeland Security. [New York Times, 11/20/02] The department wants to be active by March 1, 2003, but "it's going to take years to integrate all these different entities into an efficient and effective organization." [New York Times 11/20/02, Los Angeles Times, 11/26/02] Some 9/11 victims' relatives are angry over sections inserted into the legislation at the last minute. Airport screening companies will be protected from lawsuits filed by family members of 9/11 victims. Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died in the WTC, says, "We were down there lobbying last week and trying to make the case that this will hurt us, but they did it anyway. It's just a slap in the face to the victims." [New York Times, 11/26/02] The bill also allows the controversial Total Information Awareness program to move forward with its funding. [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/20/02 (B)] It also gives a Freedom of Information Act exemption for information submitted by private industry to government agencies. Such information given will be automatically classified, protecting the private sector from public scrutiny and lawsuits. Robert Leger, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, says, "This bill sacrifices, in the name of homeland security, the long-standing American principle of open government." [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/19/02]
December 4, 2002 (B): A federal judge in New York rules that Jose Padilla, a US citizen who has been accused of being an al-Qaeda "dirty bomber," has the right to meet with a lawyer (see June 10, 2002). The judge agrees with the government that Padilla can be held indefinitely as an "enemy combatant" even though he is a US citizen. But he says such enemy combatants can meet with a lawyer to contest their status. However, the ruling makes it very difficult to overturn such a status. The government only need show that "some evidence" supports its claims. [Washington Post, 12/5/02, Washington Post, 12/11/02] In Padilla's case, many of the allegations against Padilla given to the judge, such as Padilla taking his orders from al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, have been widely dismissed in the media. [Washington Post, 9/1/02] As one newspaper puts it, Padilla "appears to be little more than a disoriented thug with grandiose ideas." [Guardian, 10/10/02 (B)] However, the government continues to challenge this ruling, and Padilla still has not had access to a lawyer (see March 11, 2003).
December 9, 2002 (B): A federal judge rules against the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, in its attempt to force Vice President Cheney to disclose his Energy Task Force documents (see May 2001 (G)). The judge writes, "This case, in which neither a House of Congress nor any congressional committee has issued a subpoena for the disputed information or authorized this suit, is not the setting for such unprecedented judicial action.'' [AP, 12/9/02] The GAO later declines to appeal the ruling (see February 7, 2003 (B)). In a similar suit being filed by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club, the Bush Administration has successfully delayed deadlines forcing these documents to be turned over. That case continues, with another deadline avoided on December 6. [AP, 12/6/02]
December 11, 2002 (D): The Justice Department announces that only six of the 765 people detained on immigration charges after 9/11 are still in US custody (see also November 5, 2001 (B) and July 3, 2002). Almost 500 of them were released to their home countries; the remainder are still in the US. 134 others were arrested on criminal charges and 99 were convicted. Another group of more than 300 were taken into custody by state and local law enforcement and so statistics are unknown about them. Additionally, more were arrested on material witness warrants, but the government won't say how many. The Washington Post has determined there are at least 44 in this category (see November 24, 2002 (B)). [Washington Post, 12/12/02] The names of all those secretly arrested still have not been released (see August 2, 2002 (C)). None in any of the categories have been charged with any terrorist acts.
January 12, 2003 (B): It is reported that 22 cities representing 3.5 million residents have passed resolutions criticizing the Patriot and Homeland Security Acts (see October 26, 2001). Another 70 cities have such resolutions in the works. [AP, 1/12/03] Many of the resolutions provide some legal justification for local authorities to resist cooperating in the federal war on terrorism when they deem civil liberties and Constitutional rights are being compromised. [New York Times, 12/23/02]
January 23, 2003: Congress imposes some limitations on the notorious Total Information Awareness program (see March 2002 (B) and November 9, 2002). Research and development of the program would have to halt within 90 days of enactment of the bill unless the Defense Department submits a detailed report about the program. The research can also continue if Bush certifies that the report cannot be provided. Congress also okays use of the program internationally, but it cannot be used inside the US unless Congress passes new legislation specifically authorizing such use. [New York Times, 1/24/03, Los Angeles Times, 2/19/03] However, a bill to completely stop the program has yet to pass. [San Jose Mercury News, 1/17/03, Los Angeles Times, 2/19/03] Several days earlier, Senator Charles Grassley (R) alleged that the Justice Department and FBI are more extensively exploring the use of the Total Information Awareness program than they have previously acknowledged. [AP, 1/21/03, Washington Post, 1/22/03] Contracts worth tens of millions of dollars have been signed with private companies to develop pieces of the program. [AP, 2/12/03] Salon also reports that the program "has now advanced to the point where it's much more than a mere 'research project.'" [Salon, 1/29/03]
February 7, 2003: Charles Lewis of the Center
for Public Integrity reveals the leaked text of a new anti-terrorism bill. Called
the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, it becomes popularly known as
the Patriot Act II. The text of the bill is dated January 9, 2003. [NOW
with Bill Moyers, 2/7/03, Center
for Public Integrity, 2/7/03, Patriot
Act II text] Before it was leaked, the bill was being
prepared in complete secrecy from the public and Congress. Only House Speaker
Dennis Hastert and Vice President Cheney were sent copies on January 10. [San
Francisco Chronicle, 2/11/03] A week earlier, Attorney General Ashcroft
said the Justice Department was not working on any bill of this type, and when
the text was released, they said it was just a rough draft. But the text "has
all the appearance of a document that has been worked over and over." [ABC
News, 3/12/03, Village
Voice, 2/28/03] Some, including a number of congresspeople, speculate that
the government is waiting until a new terrorist act or war fever before formally
introducing this bill. [NOW
with Bill Moyers, 2/7/03, AP,
2/10/03 (B), UPI,
Voice, 3/26/03] Here are some of its provisions:
1) The attorney general is given the power to deport any foreign national, even people who are legal permanent residents. No crime need be asserted, no proof offered, and the deportation can occur in complete secrecy. [St. Petersburg Times, 2/16/03]
2) It would authorize secret arrests in terrorism investigations, which would overturn a court order requiring the release of names of their detainees. [St. Petersburg Times, 2/16/03] Not even an attorney or family need be informed until the person is formally charged, if that ever happens. [ABC News, 3/12/03]
3) The citizenship of any US citizen can be revoked, if they are members of or have supported any group the attorney general designates as terrorist. [St. Petersburg Times, 2/16/03] A person who gives money to a charity that only later turns out to have some terrorist connection could then lose his or her citizenship. [CNN, 3/6/03]
4) "Whole sections ... are devoted to removing judicial oversight." Federal agents investigating terrorism could have access to credit reports, without judicial permission. [St. Petersburg Times, 2/16/03]
5) Federal investigators can conduct wiretaps without a court order for 15 days whenever Congress authorizes force or in response to an attack on the United States. [UPI, 3/10/03]
6) It creates a DNA database of anyone the Justice Department determines to be a "suspect,'' without court order. [San Jose Mercury News, 2/20/03]
7) It would be a crime for someone subpoenaed in connection with an investigation being carried out under the Patriot Act to alert Congress to any possible abuses committed by federal agents. [ABC News, 3/12/03]
8) Businesses and their personnel who provide information to anti-terrorism investigators are granted immunity even if the information is fraudulent. [ABC News, 3/12/03]
9) The government would be allowed to carry out electronic searches of virtually all information available about an individual without having to show probable cause and without informing the individual that the investigation was being carried out. Critics say this provision "would fundamentally change American society" because everyone would be under suspicion at all times. [ABC News, 3/12/03]
10) Federal agents would be immune from prosecution when they engage in illegal surveillance acts. [UPI, 3/10/03]
11) Restrictions are eased on the use of secret evidence in the prosecution of terror cases. [UPI, 3/10/03]
12) Existing judicial consent decrees preventing local police departments from spying on civil rights groups and other organizations are canceled. [Salon, 3/24/03]
Initially the story generates little press coverage, but there is a slow stream of stories over the next weeks, all expressing criticism. Of all the major newspapers, only the Washington Post puts the story on the front page, and no television network has the story in prime time. [AP, 2/8/03, CBS, 2/8/03, Los Angeles Times, 2/8/03, New York Times, 2/8/03, Washington Post, 2/8/03 (B), AP, 2/10/03 (B), San Francisco Chronicle, 2/11/03, Los Angeles Times, 2/13/03, St. Petersburg Times, 2/16/03, Denver Post, 2/20/03, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/20/03, San Jose Mercury News, 2/20/03, Baltimore Sun, 2/21/03, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2/21/03, Village Voice, 2/28/03, Houston Chronicle, 3/1/03, UPI, 3/10/03, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 3/19/03, Salon, 3/24/03, Village Voice, 3/26/03, CNN, 3/6/03, ABC News, 3/12/03, Tampa Tribune, 4/6/03] Representative Jerrold Nadler (D) says the bill amounts to "little more than the institution of a police state." [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/11/03]
February 7, 2003 (B): The General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, declines to appeal a case attempting to force Vice President Cheney to disclose his Energy Task Force documents (see May 2001 (G) and December 9, 2002 (B)). This ends a potentially historic showdown between the congressional watchdog agency and the executive branch. [Los Angeles Times, 2/8/03 (B)] It is widely believed that the suit is dropped because of pressure from the Republican Party - the suit was filed when the Democrats controlled the Senate, and this decision comes shortly after the Republicans gained control of the Senate. [Washington Post, 2/8/03 (C)] The head of the GAO denies the lawsuit is dropped because of Republican threats to cut his office's budget, but US Comptroller General David Walker, who led the case, says there was one such "thinly veiled threat" last year by a lawmaker he wouldn't identify. [Reuters, 2/25/03] Another account has Senator Ted Stevens (R) and a number of other congresspeople making the threat to Walker. [Hill, 2/19/03] The GAO has previously indicated that accepting defeat in this case would cripple its ability to oversee the executive branch. [Washington Post, 2/8/03 (C)] A similar suit filed by Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club is still moving forward (see July 12, 2002 and October 17, 2002). [Washington Post, 2/8/03 (C)]
March 11, 2003: A judge reaffirms the right of Jose Padilla, a US citizen being held as an "enemy combatant," to meet with a lawyer (see June 10, 2002 and December 4, 2002 (B)). The same judge ruled that he could meet with a lawyer in December 2002, but the government continues to challenge the ruling and continues to block his access to a lawyer. [AP, 3/11/03] Later in the month, the government tells the judge it is planning to ignore his order and will appeal the case. [AP, 3/26/03] Why is the US fighting so hard to keep Padilla in total isolation despite evidence that the "dirty bomb" plot he is accused of is almost totally fictitious? While it may be completely coincidental, the Village Voice has noticed that Padilla is a "dead ringer" for the never found "John Doe #2" of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and other evidence could tie him to it. [Village Voice, 6/13/02, Village Voice, 3/27/02]
March 26, 2003 (B): Bush signs an executive order delaying the public release of millions of government documents, citing the need to more thoroughly review them first. The government faced a April 17 deadline for declassifying millions of documents 25 years or older. [Reuters, 3/26/03] The order also treats all material sent to American officials from foreign governments, no matter how routine, as subject to classification. It expands the ability of the CIA to shield documents from declassification. And for the first time, it gives the vice president the power to classify information. The New York Times says, "Offering that power to Vice President Dick Cheney, who has shown indifference to the public's right to know what is going on inside the executive branch, seems a particularly worrying development." [New York Times, 3/28/03]