Weapons of Mass Deception

by Michael Ventura

In the days following 9/11, George W. Bush began speaking of "homeland
security." Even then, some of us thought the phrase had a sinister,Orwellian ring. Bush proposed a White House Office of Homeland Security subject to no will but the president's -- no congressional oversight,  no balance of constitutional powers, no accountability to the people. In  the ensuing months a free press and some notable Democrats attacked the  idea; the Democrats' counterproposal was a cabinet-level agency of Homeland Security, mandated by Congress and answerable to Constitutional checks and balances. Bush appeared to accede to this pressure and to accept the concept of a cabinet-level Homeland Security Department, mandated and
overseen by the people's representatives. Most Americans think that's what they got when Congress recently passed the Homeland Security Act. What we really got was an intimidated Congress, frightened of appearing "soft  on terrorism," which supplied Bush with the basic governmental structure necessary for a totalitarian America. These words no doubt sound  extreme; perhaps they won't when you examine some details of your new Department of Homeland Security.

The new department will employ 170,000 people -- making it second only to the Pentagon as our largest government institution. Under its authority will be the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Border Patrol, and the Transportation Security Administration, to name a few. The New York Times reports that the bill "provides the new department with what congressional officials say is unprecedented power for a federal agency to organize itself as it chooses, without congressional oversight or interference" (authority "demanded by the Bush administration"). With the Secret Service and other law enforcement
agencies under its control, Homeland Security will constitute an intelligence-gathering institution of massive proportions. "Administration officials acknowledge," says the Times, "that the Department of Homeland Security could eventually emerge as a rival to the FBI as a domestic intelligence-gathering agency." Language added to the bill since the recent election "allows the administration to reorganize the department after it is created." What this means in the real world is that essential
security services (the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, and the Border Patrol)
will no longer be subject to congressional "interference"; will no longer
have to account for themselves to the people; and will no longer be answerable to any but the White House, which can institute any changes it wants in the new department without going to the people for approval. And the administration already admits that Homeland Security could become a super-FBI operating without any of the FBI's present constitutional constrictions.

In addition, the 170,000 Homeland Security employees will be stripped
civil service protections. This proposal was couched as a money-saving,
anti-union tactic that would give the new department "flexibility"
word). What it means in everyday reality is the department will exert
complete control over its employees, who will no doubt face severe
consequences for acts of conscience (such as telling their fellow
what Homeland Security is really up to).

The Department of Homeland Security will include an Office of
Awareness, employing a system that is being called Total Information
Awareness: a massive computer database combining information from
intelligence agencies with information gathered by commercial
Here is conservative columnist William Safire's description:

"This 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
private life from commercial sources, add every piece of information
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 super-snoop's dream: a 'Total
Information Awareness' about every U.S. citizen ... [the new agency]
been given a $200 million budget to create computer dossiers on 300

What is the rationale for this "Office of Information Awareness"? Not
"war on terrorism." None of the 9/11 attackers were American citizens;
would have barely shown up on such a database. The two or three
who have been connected to al Qaeda have been, by the government's own
admission, low-level functionaries who posed no direct threat to public
safety. "Total Information Awareness" is a war not on terrorism but on
liberty. It's about terrorizing us -- for when people know their every
is being recorded by the government, they are apt to be cautious,
self-doubting, and self-censoring, lest they draw the attention of the
authorities. "Total Information Awareness" -- total as in totalitarian.
That is the root of the word: total government control and coercion of
total range of human activity, for which the government requires (and
soon have) total information.

The Office of Information Awareness isn't an Orwellian fantasy. Thanks
to a
confused, timid, pliant Congress, it is now the law of the land. This
"office," by the way, is under the command of John Poindexter. Remember
him? In the Reagan administration, it was his idea to sell Iran
missiles in
exchange for American hostages, and then to use that money to fund an
illegal (by U.S. and international law) "contra" movement against
Nicaragua -- "Iran/Contra" was his baby, and he was convicted on six
for his crimes (one of them being that he lied to Congress under oath).
Poindexter served no prison time; Congress, you see, had granted him
immunity. It is to Poindexter that every piece of information about
life is now being entrusted.

Add to this mix the rulings of America's new secret court. The New York
Times reported that on Nov. 18 "a special federal appeals court" ruled
"that the Justice Department has broad new powers ... the judges said
that the passage of [last year's USA PATRIOT Act] ensured that there is
wall between officials from the intelligence and criminal arms of the
Justice Department ... Applications for criminal warrants must comply
the Fourth Amendment's proscriptions against intrusive searches and
an official declaration that there is 'probable cause' to believe the
subject is involved in a crime. By contrast, the intelligence
law requires only a showing that there is a probable cause that the
is the agent of a foreign power," which could mean anything. "Today's
ruling was a significant victory for Attorney General John Ashcroft,
announced immediately that he would use it to greatly expand [my
the use of the special intelligence court by prosecutors to obtain
wiretaps." A New York Times editorial commented that this appeals
proceedings "are held in secret, and the government is the only party
allowed to appear before it. [My italics; i.e., no other opinions are
allowed legal representation in this court.] The members of the court
hand-picked by Chief Justice William Rehnquist ... The combination of
one-sided arguments and one-sided judges hardly instills confidence in
court's decisions."

What all this amounts to is an unprecedented shift of power not only
Congress to the presidency, but from the Constitution to the
The essential idea of the Constitution -- that the president is
to Congress and to free courts -- has been subverted, gutted. More
power is
now concentrated in the White House than at any time in our history. We
have taken a huge step from a republic to ... the opposite of a
We are living in redefined America. The groundwork has been laid. The
has yet to be paid. You'll pay it, and sooner than you think. Yes: you.
And every other American. The word is totalitarian. There will be

Michael Ventura 11/29/02 - Austin Chronicle.


See also:

Letters at 3AM [12-13-02] BY MICHAEL VENTURA
You don't think that this whole thing with Iraq could have anything to
with the fact that Iraq sits on 10% of the world's oil reserves? Naw.
gotta be them weapons of mass destruction. EXCELLENT ARTICLE!

Letters at 3AM [11-15-02] BY MICHAEL VENTURA
America has engaged in a long-term strategy, through three presidential
administrations, to take over the Iraqi people whom we've made helpless
from a ruthless form of bio-warfare.

Letters at 3AM [09-20-02] BY MICHAEL VENTURA
The White House is intent on totalitarian measures and war; it employs
incoherence because it cannot speak plainly of its machinations.