Bobby L. Harnage, president of the 600,000-member American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), denounced a so-called “compromise” version of George W. Bush’s Homeland Security bill as a “Trojan Horse” that would destroy union rights for 170,000 federal workers in the new agency.

His warning was echoed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in recent full-page ads in Washington-area newspapers, charging that the Homeland Security legislation is a “bill of wrongs” that threatens the Constitution.

“The American public needs to know that the President’s so-called compromise bill for the Homeland Security Department is a Trojan Horse,” Harnage said. He was reacting to George W. Bush’s announcement at a White House news conference the day after the Nov. 5 election, demanding that the Senate drop its objections to the House-passed Homeland bill and send it to his desk during the current lame-duck session. Bush made clear he expects Congress to deliver on his agenda, making permanent and speeding up the $1.7 trillion tax giveaway to the rich, and his ultra-right judicial appointments. He promised a war on Iraq whenever he decides to launch an attack.

The Nov. 5 election shifted majority control of the Senate back to the Republicans but the decision of Minnesota’s Dean Barkley, named to fill out the remaining weeks of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone’s term, preserved Democratic control until next Jan. 5. However, the Senate leadership bowed to Bush, Nov. 12, agreeing to support his version of the Homeland Security bill.

“It may be called ‘homeland security’ but it has nothing to do with improving security,” Harnage charged. “All it does is strip federal workers of the right to defend themselves in the workplace. This terrible piece of legislation gives the president the power to strip unionized workers of their ability to represent themselves on matters as basic as hiring, firing, promotions, appraisals, disciplinary actions, matching pay to job duties – the bread and butter of democratic unionism.”

AFGE Legislative Director Beth Moten told the World, “We’re asking the Senators to oppose this legislation and fight it now in the same way they fought it before the elections. This bill will destroy rights that workers have now. It is going to be profoundly demoralizing for these federal employees and will undermine homeland security.”

The ACLU’s Washington Director, Laura Murphy, said, “Congress needs to pass a bill that forbids citizen spies, racial profiling and civil rights abuses by federal authorities.” All these abuses are permitted in the Bush Homeland Security bill approved by the House, Murphy said. The version introduced by Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut protects union rights “but falls short in other important areas,” Murphy said. She pointed out that the Lieberman measure would permit Attorney General John Ashcroft’s TIPS stoolpigeon program and clears the way for a national ID program. Neither of these repressive measures are permitted in the House bill.

Hand-in-hand with the Homeland Security legislation is a Pentagon-based spying operation to obtain “billions” of pieces of information from people’s Internet mail, telephone records, credit cards, bank transactions and travel documents without a search warrant. The director of the program is Admiral John Poindexter, the former National Security Adviser in the Reagan administration who was exposed as a criminal in the Iran-contra conspiracy.

The drive by the Bush administration to build up a repressive infrastructure in the name of “homeland security” echoes the late 1960s and early 1970s, when, as Christoper Pyle charged in a January 1970 Washington Monthy article, the Pentagon, together with the FBI and CIA, “assembled the essential apparatus of a police state.”

Olga Vives, vice president of the National Organization for Women, told the World, “The danger in this situation is that the Bush administration sees the election as a mandate when in fact there was no mandate. There was only a shift of about 32,000 votes that gave him a majority Republican Senate. The country is deeply divided on the issues. We have to lead the people of this country who do not agree with Bush’s repressive agenda. We need to slow the situation down and look ahead to 2004 as a time to reverse what happened Nov. 5.”

Asked how people should respond to Bush’s offensive, Vives replied, “Organize, organize, organize. There is nothing more powerful in this country than the people demanding change. We are going to coalesce with our allies. We want the Senate to filibuster when Bush nominates far-right judges to the judiciary. Bush did not get a filibuster-proof Senate! We are going to conduct an aggressive educational campaign on the issues. We have the power of protest and we will go back to the streets to rally people on issues of importance to women.”

The author can be reached at greenerpastures21212@yahoo.com

PDF version of ‘Union, ACLU slam repressive homeland bill’

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