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by freeman
Thursday Sep 22nd, 2005 2:33 PM
I'm glad somebody's posting this. Thanks, Scott. What's even more scary is if you look into FEMA's budget. Only 6%, count them 1...2...3...4...5...6 100ths of the funding they recieve from the Federal budget (i.e. US citizen tax dollars) ACTUALLY goes into any sort of emergency preparedness plans and supplies for the public. The bulk majority of it goes into building underground shelters similar the one a mile under the Whitehouse for the wealthy elite to escape into when the nukes and other mass-destructive weapons start flying. Make no mistake, FEMA isn't there to help anybody but the ruling class to perpetuate its ability to rule after catastrophe. It's not there to rebuild a harmonious society, it's not there to help the general public. It's there to keep those in power in power after it all goes down the drain. And it's taking a LOT of money away from helping people that actually do need it NOW, and may even more after Rita, depending on what the weather holds. Most importantly, unless somebody is ready to come up with a way and is willing to examine and countermand executive orders, then there's little anybody can do about FEMA's existence, its funding or its methods in this day and age. Unfortunately that's the sad reality that most people in this society choose to support and participate in every single day.


Although the story lists some near-unbelievable information about FEMA refusing all aid,'s all true. Here are the sources (not shown in the article):

FEMA Urged First Responders Not To Respond To Hurricane Areas. While the situation in New Orleans became increasingly worse, FEMA issued a press release urging all fire and emergency services departments not to respond to counties and states affected by Hurricane Katrina without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities. [FEMA Press Release, 8/29/05,

FEMA Refuses to Ship Trailers to Mississippi To Help With Relief Efforts. "Senator Trent Lott called on President Bush to authorize the immediate release of 20,000 trailers sitting idle in Atlanta. Lott said FEMA has refused to ship the trailers because of red tape and paperwork." [CNN, 9/6/05]

FEMA Turned Away Generators. According to Ben Morris, the mayor of Slidell, Louisiana, "We are still hampered by some of the most stupid, idiotic regulations by FEMA. They have turned away generators; we've heard that they've gone around seizing equipment from our contractors." [Associated Press, 9/6/05]

FEMA Would Not Let Red Cross Deliver Food to New Orleans. As the National Guard delivered food to the New Orleans convention center, American Red Cross officials said that FEMA authorities would not allow them to do the same. "The Homeland Security Department has requested and continues to request that the American Red Cross not come back into New Orleans," said Renita Hosler, spokeswoman for the Red Cross. [Pittsburg Post-Gazette, 9/4/05]

FEMA Turned Away Trucks Filled With Water, Prevented Coast Guard From Delivering Fuel, and Cut Communication Lines Of Local Officials. According to Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, when Wal-Mart sent three trailer trucks loaded with water, FEMA officials turned them away. Agency workers prevented the Coast Guard from delivering 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel, and on Saturday they cut the parish's emergency communications line, leading the sheriff to restore it and post armed guards to protect it from FEMA. [New York Times, 9/5/05]

FEMA Failed to Utilize Navy Ship With 600-Bed Hospital. "While federal officials scramble to get more military relief to Gulf Coast communities stricken by Hurricane Katrina, a massive naval goodwill station has been cruising offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, underused and waiting for a larger role in the effort... But the Bataan's hospital facilities are empty... The Bataan has been in the stricken region the longest of any military unit, but federal authorities have yet to fully utilize the ship... The role in the relief effort of the sizable medical staff on board the Bataan was not up to the Navy, but to FEMA officials directing the overall effort." [Chicago Tribune, 9/4/05]

FEMA Refused Amtrak's Offer Of Trains To Evacuate Victims. "Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) accused the Federal Emergency Management Agency of 'dragging its feet' when Amtrak offered trains to evacuate victims. 'Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency,' she said." [Financial Times, 9/5/05]

FEMA Delays Acceptance of Tens of Millions in Foreign Aid. "Offers of foreign aid worth tens of millions of dollars -- including a Swedish water purification system, a German cellular telephone network and two Canadian rescue ships -- have been delayed for days awaiting review by backlogged federal agencies, according to European diplomats and information collected by the State Department... More than 90 countries and international organizations [have] offered to assist in recovery efforts for the flood-stricken region, but nearly all endeavors remained mired yesterday in bureaucratic entanglements, in most cases, at the Federal Emergency Management Agency." [Washington Post, 9/7/05]

Federal Government Has Neglected Disaster Preparedness, Left Enormous Vulnerabilities. Disaster and emergency experts have warned for years that governments, especially the federal government, have put so much stress on disaster response that they have neglected policies to minimize a disaster's impact in advance. Robert Hartwig, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute, said "It's going to be very evident that there were an enormous number of vulnerabilities that weren't addressed. There's going to be a lot of finger-pointing." [Newhouse News Service, 8/31/05]

Federal Auditors Criticized Administration Emergency Response Plans In 2004. A March 2004 General Accounting Office report disclosed that not one of 23 major departments and agencies it investigated had fully complied with a 1998 presidential directive to develop emergency plans complying with FEMA guidelines. The GAO faulted FEMA for inadequate oversight of agencies' plans and for a lack of detail in supplied guidance, noting, "If FEMA does not address these shortcomings, agency... plans may not be effective in ensuring that the most vital government services can be maintained in an emergency." [Washington Post, 3/31/04]

Bush Was Warned That First Responders' Training Did Not Focus Enough On Natural Disasters. "A report from the congressional General Accounting Office says the Bush Administration was warned this summer that some first responders were concerned their training and equipment was tilting too much toward combating terrorism rather than natural disasters... The emphasis changed once the Federal Emergency Management Agency lost its independence and joined the 22-agency Homeland Security Department in March 2003." [Associated Press, 9/6/05]

Bureaucratic Reconfigurations Have Stripped FEMA Of Its Focus. When FEMA was folded into the Department of Homeland Security, it became part of the new department's prime focus on terrorism, not winds or floods. The result has been shakeups and reconfigurations that have left the old agency stripped of many of its funding programs and some of its money, prompting cries of protest from emergency managers across the country. [Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 8/16/04]

Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt: Extra Bureaucracy Hindered FEMA's Success. Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt told the House Government Reform Committee in 2004: "I want you to know that I and many others in the emergency management community across the country are deeply concerned about the direction FEMA is headed. First, we are greatly concerned that the successful partnership that was built between local/state/federal partners and their ability to communicate, coordinate, train, prepare, and respond has been sharply eroded. Second, FEMA... is being buried beneath a massive bureaucracy whose main and seemingly only focus is fighting terrorism while an all hazards mission is getting lost in the shuffle. I firmly believe that FEMA should be extracted from the DHS bureaucracy and re-establish it as an independent agency reporting directly to the President... Third, the FEMA Director has lost Cabinet status and along with it the close relationship to the President and Cabinet Affairs." [House Government Reform Committee, 3/24/04]

Bush Tried To Cut Post-Disaster Relief Funds For Victims of Natural Disasters. In 2003, Bush proposed a budget that cut immediate post-disaster relief funds. Bush would put $300 million in the disaster-preparation grants programs. Post-disaster grants averaged more than $380 million a year from 1996 through 2001, not including money allocated after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. [The Ledger, 2/6/03]

Disaster Mitigation Programs Slashed Since 2001. Since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created by the Clinton Administration, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now communities across the country must compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars. [Baltimore City Paper, 9/29/04]

* In 2003 White House Slashed Mitigation Programs In Half. President Bush tried to kill the FEMA'S Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), which provides an extra percentage of federal disaster aid to states and communities so they can prepare for future catastrophes. As a result, in 2003, Congress approved a White House proposal to cut HMGP in half. Such post-disaster mitigation efforts, specialists say, are a crucial way of minimizing future losses. [Gambit Weekly, 9/28/04; The Ledger, 8/18/04]



By any other name, FEMA remains this nation's "secret government," with powers to suspend laws, move entire populations, arrest and detain citizens without a warrant, hold citizens without a trial, seize control of all transportation and communication systems and -- suspend the US Constitution: Sheila Samples

While everyone bashes FEMA ~ I have always been troubled by the power that it wielded during the Katrina crisis ~ stopping convoys in their tracks , refusing help to thousands, barring delivery of food to those in desperate need and seizing control of all communication and transportation systems."
Then my friend Sheila Samples uncovered the obvious ~ and revealed " By any other name, FEMA remains this nation's "secret government," with powers to suspend laws, move entire populations, arrest and detain citizens without a warrant, hold citizens without a trial, seize control of all transportation and communication systems and -- suspend the US Constitution."
Of course, now it so obvious ~ FEMA has become the enforcer for the grand and sinister designs of the Department of Homeland Security and Patriot Act Two ~ which is why it was totally confused when it was asked to play a humanitarian role in a natural disaster.
Which is why Brown was replaced by a military type ( Vice-Admiral Allen ) today ~ which is one step closer to its original military purpose.
Sheila calls it the SNAFU plan and reveals FEMA for what it really is. And this is why the Cheney/Bush administration want to lead the investigation of FEMA ~ and keep it's real paranoid purpose under wraps.
Excerpt: " FEMA is the Patriot Act on crack. Once its powers are unleashed, Oliver North's REX 84 "exercise" will become a reality. The Constitution will be suspended and FEMA will have the right to detain or seize the property of anyone even suspected of engaging in, or who might be thinking of conspiring with others to engage in acts of espionage or sabotage. REX 84 also advocated rounding up and transferring to "assembly centers or relocation camps" of at least 21 million American Negroes in the event of massive rioting or disorder, not unlike the rounding up of the Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s."
Allen L Roland

By Sheila Samples

"A government that terrorizes its own people can never stop. If such a government ever lets the fear subside and rational thought return to the populace, that government is finished."
~Michael Rivero, What Really Happened

It's a good thing President George Bush doesn't read newspapers or watch TV. If he did, even he could see that people from one end of this nation to the other are rapidly reaching zero tolerance with his bumbling ineptitude each time he is faced with a crisis. Those who watched in amazement as Bush sat paralyzed in a Florida elementary school on the morning of September 11, 2001 as planes were ramming into the World Trade Center and Pentagon -- who watched in dismay as he zigzagged across the country from one hidey hole to another throughout the day -- were not surprised that he dropped the ball when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast on August 29.
Bush has dropped every ball thrown to him throughout his life. But he's a hell of a cheerleader. It's almost like being back in college. In an instant, Bush can whip a crowd into a frenzy, armed with nothing but a bullhorn and a shell-shocked firefighter. He can divert the attention of an entire nation from what is happening on the field by locking it into one massive, cheering "wave." Life is a game. Go Team.
However, Operation Hurricane Katrina is vastly different from Bush's "freedom is on the march" game that continues to wreak chaos, death and destruction throughout the Arab world. In the aftermath of Katrina, the homeless, bewildered, abandoned and starving citizens may be poverty-striken, they may be dark-skinned, but they are Americans. And, because they are Americans, the cheering has stopped. The media, led by the shaking outrage of CNN's Anderson Cooper and right-leaning curmudgeon Jack Cafferty, followed by the networks and, finally, by the wonderous on-air meltdown of Fox News' Shepard Smith, at long last is doing its job. For a time, however fleeting, the media has been shocked into telling the truth, asking the right questions and holding the administration's feet to the fire.
Thanks to the media, Bush is out there without a bullhorn -- and without a game plan.
The best-laid plans
Of course the neoconservatives who are in control of this country had a plan for Iraq. I've written about it so often I'm almost embarrassed to bring it up again. In 1992, Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby and Paul Wolfowitz laid out their obsesson for world dominance in a secret document, Defense Planning Guidance wherein they boldly asserted, "our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region (Middle East and SW Asia) and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil."
Although such arrogance caused a furor when released to the media, the war jackals merely retreated into their lair and continued to hone the policy of preemptive war to seize control of the world's resources. That was the plan then, it was the plan in 1997 when they established the warmongering think-tank, Project for a New American Century, it was the plan outlined in the September 2000 Rebuilding America's Defenses, which included another bold assertion -- to achieve their goal they would need "a catastrophic and catalyzing event, like a new Pearl Harbor" -- and it remains the plan today.
It was a stroke of genius in 2000 to rig the election and put George Bush in the Cheerleader in Chief role. Bush is mean-spirited, vindictive, greedy, incapable of feeling empathy, easily manipulated, desperate for attention -- even adulation -- and has no qualms with playing the God card for political gain. Americans are a forgiving people, and most accepted without question this worthless, former booze-and-drug sodden ne'er-do-well's claim that he was born again -- a man of God. They loved him. All Cheney had to do was select himself as Number Two, slip behind the curtain, and the cabal -- as they like to call themselves -- was open for business, and waiting for a new Pearl Harbor.
It was not long in coming. If 9-11 taught us nothing else, we must ultimately concede that George Bush entered office on his way to war with Iraq, and had no qualms about lying repeatedly to the American people and to our allies to get there. Piles of dead bodies, including nearly 2,100 coalition soldiers and marines and tens of thousands of Iraqis, the majority of whom are women and children, are but a minor irritant to Bush. That part of humanity not belonging to the corporate world is invisible to Bush, nothing more than collateral damage, and is not factored into his "war plan."
Long before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, just as before 9-11, administration officials were warned of impending peril. Although they played out the frightening scenario in rehearsal after rehearsal, when it was "show time" they were nowhere to be found. They knew. And they did nothing. Either by incompetence or design, they failed to act, and the death, crippling despair, disease and sheer hopelessness suffered by Americans in our most romantic city is breathtaking in scope and indefensible on any level.
Bush has repeatedly slashed funds for the Army Corps of Engineers water projects for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. In 2003, the money that had previously flowed into the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project (SELA), tasked with shoring up levees and building pumping stations, dried up to a mere trickle. With warnings ringing in his ears, in 2004 Bush refused the money requested to raise the levees and rejected a plea for a $15-million project to shore up the banks of Lake Pontchartrain. And, in June, Bush's 2006 federal budget called for slashing SELA funds from an already inadequate $36.5-million to a mere $10.4-million, and for cutting the overall New Orleans Corps of Engineers budget a record $71.2-million, which Corps officials say is the largest single-year funding loss ever.
But all is not lost. The Corps of Engineers managed to get a hefty $100-million for just one water project -- in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. According to the peerless Ward Harkavy, who writes The Morning Report for the Village Voice, "On August 15, just two weeks before Katrina slammed into the U.S., the Pentagon boasted of spending $6.4-billion -- so far -- on 2,705 Corps of Engineers construction projects in Iraq, all but 200 of them started since June 2004."
The SNAFU plan
It looks to me like everything is going according to plan. Chaos, like everything else, is just a matter of perspective. Few people really know anything about the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), except it's a name that's thrown around a lot during times of national disaster. Do not think for one minute that Bush "gutted" FEMA by placing it under the control of Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff. By any other name, FEMA remains this nation's "secret government," with powers to suspend laws, move entire populations, arrest and detain citizens without a warrant, hold citizens without a trial, seize control of all transportation and communication systems and -- suspend the US Constitution.
FEMA was created outside of Constitutional law via a President John Kennedy Executive Order, and is subject to no Congressional oversight. It received a "tune up" under President Jimmy Carter then, like Topsy, "just growed" through presidents Nixon, Reagan, Poppy and Bubba to the present time. Genocide fascists like Henry Kissinger, and greedy patriots like former General Richard Secord and Lt. Col. Oliver North, the architects of both the Iran-Contra scandal and today's FEMA, must be laughing their asses off at the juvenile disinformation bait-and-switch scenario playing itself out in the US media.
We would do well to remember that these jackals are on a mission. No matter how many times they are exposed as liars and deceivers, they continue across the field of life like a hoard of grasshoppers, leaving stripped and broken humanity in their wake. They are roiling the waters of the Mississippi by portraying FEMA as dim-witted, absent-minded, rudderless.
And it's working. The media, Internet, Congress, you, me -- everybody -- all baying for Bush to dump the hapless FEMA director, Michael Brown, a Bush crony and former counsel for the International Arabian Horse Association. We are all outraged, not at Bush for dropping the ball; for being so chillingly disconnected from those he is charged to protect -- but at Brown, who is a perfect lightning rod and, if need be, a fall guy.
He's also a man with a plan.
Take a look at these headlines -- FEMA refusing all offered rescue assistance from Amtrack to experienced firefighters, FEMA not delivering on promises, FEMA barring delivery of desperately needed food or water to frightened and bewildered victims of Katrina, FEMA telling First Responders not to "respond" to the disaster. Does anybody but me see a pattern here? Is it possible for an emergency aid organization to show up at the scene only to refuse all offers of aid? Does McDonald's cook up a bunch of hamburgers and then lock its doors to its hungry patrons?
FEMA is the Patriot Act on crack. Once its powers are unleashed, Oliver North's REX 84 "exercise" will become a reality. The Constitution will be suspended and FEMA will have the right to detain or seize the property of anyone even suspected of engaging in, or who might be thinking of conspiring with others to engage in acts of espionage or sabotage. REX 84 also advocated rounding up and transferring to "assembly centers or relocation camps" of at least 21 million American Negroes in the event of massive rioting or disorder, not unlike the rounding up of the Jews in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
The actual number of displaced New Orleans residents is unknown. Overnight, they became "refugees," and hundreds of thousands packed into the Super Dome or sat sweltering in the sun on roads and bridges during a nightmarish week of waiting for help that did not come, while political fat cats finger-pointed and accused each other of playing the "blame" game. Finally, their military liberators herded them onto buses and planes, refusing to reveal their destination -- husbands and wives separated, families split apart -- and disappeared to "assembly centers or location camps" throughout the United States.
Bush, who once asked Sojourners' Reverend Jim Wallis how to talk to poor people because he had never been around one, has once again dropped the ball. Telling Americans whose homes, jobs, loved ones, whose whole lives were washed away in a single night to "hang in there, and don't buy gasoline if you can't afford it," before cutting out to a birthday party in Arizona falls a bit short of his presidential promise to "protect the American people."
It's unfortunate that it took a tragedy like Katrina for middle- and lower-class America to finally come to grips with where they will fit into the capitalist White supremacist New World Disorder. Americans now know that Bush is incapable of leading. They know he's too arrogant and stubborn to follow. They know it's time for him to get out of the way -- before more of us are trampled, displaced, abandoned, and destroyed, not only here but throughout the world.

Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at: rsamples [at] ? 2005 Sheila Samples
by Guy
Friday Sep 23rd, 2005 1:55 AM
Who knows why the anti-war movement is so silent about the threat of Martial Law to our Democracy?
by just wondering
Friday Sep 23rd, 2005 3:34 AM
You mean the one where the government has unlimited eminent domain and surveillance powers, where the head of state is appointed by a judiciary that was appointed by the head of state, where habeus corpus no longer exists, whose armies maraud half the world, but whose ability to protect its citizens from enemy attack, or even from Nature, is the laughingstock of the century?

Is that the one you're talking about?

Just wondering.
by repost
Friday Sep 23rd, 2005 3:53 AM
by Jacob G. Hornberger
September 22, 2005

Without any doubt, the most dangerous threat to the freedom of the American people in our lifetime lies with what might be called the Padilla doctrine, an exercise of such raw military power that, if upheld, will totally transform life in America as we know it. Unfortunately most Americans remain blissfully unaware of the ominous implications of this doctrine.

On May 8, 2002, Jose Padilla, an American citizen, flew from Pakistan to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, where he was taken into custody by federal agents as part of the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism.” Initially held as a “material witness,” Padilla was transferred to New York, where he was assigned an attorney.

Soon thereafter, however, federal officials removed Padilla from the jurisdiction of the federal court and transferred him to the control of the Pentagon. Moved to a naval brig in South Carolina, Padilla was held indefinitely as an “enemy combatant” in the “war on terrorism” and denied the right to consult with his attorney, the right to due process of law, and the right to trial by jury.

The government’s position was that since Padilla was a prisoner of war (that is, a part of the “war on terrorism”) – and an “illegal combatant” at that – there was no reason to accord him the rights and guarantees that the Constitution requires the government to accord criminal defendants. The Pentagon also maintained that it could hold Padilla for as long as the “war on terrorism” lasted, even if that was forever.

One of the legitimate functions of government is to arrest, prosecute, and punish people who commit acts of violence against others. Thus, over time an array of criminal offenses has developed within the criminal-justice system that encompasses such acts as murder, rape, theft, robbery, burglary, trespass . . . and terrorism. The idea is that if a person commits violent acts against others, it is the duty of the state to punish him.

However, the obvious question arises: How do we really know that the person has truly committed the offense with which he is charged?

Obviously, one option would be to leave the matter up to federal officials. We could simply place our blind faith in their good judgment, trusting them to punish only the truly guilty and to leave everyone else alone.

Procedural rights and guarantees

That’s not the option that our forefathers chose, however, when they brought into existence the U.S. federal government. They instead brought forward, through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, a criminal-justice system that recognized procedural rights and guarantees that had long been accorded people accused of a crime; some of these protections even stretched as far back as the Magna Carta in 1215.

Such rights include the right to habeas corpus, which is a legal proceeding by which a person held in custody can petition a judge to order the custodian to bring the prisoner to court and show cause why he should not be released.

They also include the right to the effective assistance of counsel, which recognizes that a lay person charged with a crime would have little chance in a courtroom against an experienced prosecutor.

There is the right to due process of law, which entails, at a minimum, notice of the charges and the right to be heard.

There is the right of trial by jury, ensuring that ordinary people in the community, rather than a judge, will have the final say in whether a person truly is guilty or not.

There is the right to confront witnesses, ensuring that people aren’t convicted on the basis of hearsay statements.

There is the right to compel favorable witnesses to appear and give their testimony at trial.

And there is the presumption of innocence, which entitles the accused to remain silent and requires the government to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And there are several more.

Why were such rights carved out over the centuries and why did people require the king or the president to recognize and honor them? Because people realized that, while the government is charged with the important job of punishing violent lawbreakers, government officials oftentimes abused or mishandled such power by wrongfully accusing innocent people of crimes. Thus, the protections that were built up over centuries were designed with one purpose in mind: to ensure that people were not convicted of crimes that they did not commit.

Despite the many imperfections in America’s criminal-justice system, Americans rightfully can take pride in the fact that never in history has a nation had a better system for protecting the rights of the accused in criminal cases. And keep in mind that thanks to the express wording of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, all these rights and guarantees apply not just to Americans but to everyone, including foreigners, who is accused of a federal crime.

Sabotaging the Constitution

The Padilla doctrine is a back-door attempt by the Pentagon to sabotage America’s federal criminal-justice system. The doctrine threatens to destroy the centuries-old rights and guarantees. It is impossible to overstate its ominous and dangerous implications. And while many Americans lie blissfully unaware of the implications of the Padilla doctrine, there is no doubt that U.S. officials, especially those in the Pentagon, are fully aware of such implications, which is undoubtedly why Pentagon officials have been fighting tooth and nail to prevail in the Padilla case for some three years.

Ordinarily, a person who is accused of terrorism would be treated as any other person accused of a federal crime. He would be arrested, taken before a federal magistrate, indicted, and accorded right to counsel, right to trial by jury, right to due process, et cetera. That is, in fact, why terrorist suspect Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks, was charged with terrorism, which is a federal criminal offense, in U.S. district court in Virginia.

Under the Padilla doctrine, however, the Pentagon claims the authority to arrest and punish an accused terrorist without any federal court interference whatsoever. The Pentagon’s thinking goes like this: The “war on terrorism” is a real war, just like World War I and World War II. Therefore, terrorism isn’t really a crime but instead an act of war. Therefore, anyone whom the Pentagon accuses of terrorism becomes a prisoner of war, not a criminal defendant. Best of all, from the military’s standpoint, is that the prisoner isn’t even entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention, which governs prisoners of war: these prisoners, the Pentagon reasons, are “illegal combatants” because terrorism is not a lawful way to wage war and because the combatants aren’t wearing military uniforms anyway. The procedure does have one “safeguard,” however: a requirement that the president sign a formal order designating the prisoner to be an unlawful combatant in the federal war on terrorism.

The Padilla doctrine’s big net

Now ask yourself: If this power is upheld – that is, if the Pentagon is permitted to wield the power to take people into custody for terrorism offenses and prevent the federal courts from interfering with its determination and its punishment of such detainees – then who in the world is safe from the exercise and abuse of such power?

Federal officials would undoubtedly answer that they would never falsely or incorrectly accuse anyone of terrorism.

But that answer would fly in the face of centuries of prosecutorial abuse, which is exactly why the American people required their government officials to honor the procedural rights and guarantees enumerated in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. History is replete with examples of governments that used the criminal-justice system to round up and punish innocent people, especially those who have had the audacity to tell the truth about government abuses and wrongdoing. And after all, don’t forget that the Red Cross has estimated that some 70 percent of the Pentagon’s detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where the Pentagon operates without any federal court interference, are innocent of any crimes.

I repeat: If the Padilla doctrine is upheld, what protection do ordinary Americans have? Consider a newspaper editor, for example, whose editorials are consistently calling for an independent investigation into the torture and sex-abuse scandals at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq. Suppose the Pentagon decided that those editorials were supporting terrorists, albeit indirectly. They send a squad of soldiers to pick up the editor and then transfer him to the same naval brig in South Carolina where they’re holding Padilla.

What could the editor do? The answer is, under the Padilla doctrine: Nothing. He could not hire an attorney because he wouldn’t be entitled to an attorney. (After the Pentagon took control of Padilla, he was prohibited access to the attorney that had initially been appointed to represent him. Once the federal courts ordered that Padilla was to be accorded counsel, the Pentagon relented.)

The editor also couldn’t seek relief in federal courts because the federal courts wouldn’t have the authority to interfere with the military decision to take the editor into custody. If his family sued in his behalf, under the Padilla doctrine their suit would immediately be thrown out of court.

Under the Padilla doctrine, there would be no check on the power of the military to take people into custody and punish them, even execute them. The military’s power over the American people would be absolute. And given the Pentagon’s position that terrorist detainees are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention, prisoners would be subject to being tortured and sexually abused by U.S. troops, as has been the case overseas.

Of course, there are those who might say, “Well, the problem really isn’t that major because the feds certainly aren’t rounding up newspaper editors.” That’s right, but only because they know that by doing so, they would inevitably arouse the attention of the American people, especially those in the press. The feds know that the Padilla case is simply their test case. If they can prevail there, they know that that favorable ruling will have universal applicability.

In other words, there’s no sense rounding up large numbers of Americans, which would incite demonstrations against such roundups, until the military secures a favorable definitive and final ruling upholding its Padilla doctrine. That will be when the roundups begin because U.S. officials will then be certain that the federal courts will not – and cannot – interfere with their operations.

A Pentagon win in Padilla?

What are the chances of military success in the Padilla case? So far, not very good because fortunately the judicial branch of the federal government, which many federal officials in both the executive and congressional branches are now attacking, is putting the quietus on the assumption and exercise of such power. In fact, if it weren’t for the judicial branch, the Pentagon would have free rein to enforce the Padilla doctrine, given that the members of Congress have shown nothing but indifference to the Pentagon’s treatment of Jose Padilla.

Padilla’s attorney initially filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in New York, where she had initially been appointed to represent him. The district court certified the case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of Padilla. Federal officials appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court held that the petition for writ of habeas corpus had been filed in the wrong jurisdiction (New York) and that it should instead have been filed in South Carolina (where Padilla is being held). However, four justices dissented from that ruling, ardently rejecting the Pentagon’s arguments and arguing that the Court should consider the case and grant Padilla relief.

In a related case involving another American, Yaser Hamdi, who was actually taken into custody on the battlefield in Afghanistan, the Supreme Court held that Hamdi was entitled to habeas corpus and effectively ordered the government to either charge him or release him. Oddly, after arguing for years that Hamdi was a dangerous terrorist and denying him right to counsel and due process of law, the government chose to release him rather than charge him with terrorism.

When the justices who ruled in favor of Hamdi – whose factual situation was much less sympathetic than that of Padilla (Padilla having been arrested on Americana soil, while Hamdi was taken into custody on the battlefield in Afghanistan) – are added to the justices who ruled in favor of hearing the Padilla case, it is fairly clear that the Supreme Court, as it currently stands, will ultimately rule against the Pentagon and in favor of Padilla (and, indirectly, in favor of the freedom of the American people).

Padilla refiled his petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a federal district court in South Carolina, which recently ruled in his favor. The Pentagon, however, refuses to surrender: federal officials have filed an appeal with the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Padilla’s attorneys, in turn, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case directly, skipping the court of appeals.

While things look good for Padilla (and the American people) insofar as the judicial rulings are concerned, nothing should be taken for granted, especially given the silent and supine role that Congress has played in this entire affair and given the recent attacks by certain congressmen on the independence of the judicial branch.

If the Pentagon ends up winning in the Padilla case, Americans will ultimately discover why the Pentagon was fighting so hard to prevail and how victory in the Padilla case will have provided the Pentagon with a backdoor to military rule in America.

* Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation:

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