Harper's magazine investigative reporter Christopher Ketcham says that the federal government's secret "Continuity in Governance" program is much more than a contingency plan to provide safe havens for high government officials during a national crisis. After interviewing half a dozen former government officials with direct knowledge of the program, he was left with the impression that it was also about using a national emergency to justify rounding up potential dissidents who oppose government power. "According to a senior government official, there exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously."
Scott Horton, Ketcham's colleague at Harpers comments that "He and other sources tell Radar (the publication where Ketcham originally published his research) that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core [aka the "RED" list]. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. [I believe there are sub lists within this database that focus directly upon "patriots" who hold strong views about constitutional limits upon government power and their own civil rights. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.]
"Ketcham starts his narrative with former Deputy Attorney General James Comey's dramatic disclosures about the nighttime visit that Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card paid on an ailing, hospitalized John Ashcroft [US Attorney General]. They whipped out papers and pressed the sedated Ashcroft to sign them. In what has come to be viewed as the most noble act of his term, Ashcroft angrily sent Gonzales and Card on their way. Comey later provided a riveting account of this incident, under oath, in Congressional testimony.
"So what was this program all about? Speculation for months has focused on a massive surveillance program that skirted the criminal law restrictions contained in the FISA statute. Maybe. But Ketcham suggests there is more. He focuses on the Government's super-secret Continuity of Governance program--its plans for government following a catastrophe, such as a devastating attack or massive natural disaster.
"Ketcham goes on to explain how the database would be used and who's on the list. And surely Congress is keeping an eye on this program, yes? No, not really. And when civil libertarians raise concerns about the treatment of detainees in Guantánamo and other legal black holes fashioned by the Bush Administration, they are told that this is designed only for the 'worst of the worst,' never for U.S. citizens. But experience has shown that such divisions rarely stand; abusive practices break through the barriers set in place for them."
This information, coupled with the evil legal precedent established by Judge Michael Luttig means that any number of patriotic constitutionalists can be herded into concentration camps without due process and disappear forever with no right to habeas corpus. Luttig's September 9, 2005 opinion, written for a 3-judge panel Fourth Circuit Court ruling in the Jose Padilla case, said the government could arrest any citizen on American soil and keep them prisoner indefinitely as long as they did not charge them with a crime -all to avoid the constitutional requirement for a speedy trial. This can be done, Luttig said, simply by designating them an "enemy combatant."
World Affairs Brief - Commentary and Insights on a Troubled World
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