A real plan for homeland security

The Office of Homeland Security is the latest in the Bush administration’s rapid-fire initiatives in the name of combating terrorism. It would combine 22 federal agencies into one but neither the FBI nor the CIA would be drawn under the umbrella. Bush hastily announced the sweeping reorganization on the same day that Coleen Rowley, chief of the Minneapolis FBI, was delivering damning testimony that FBI headquarters had stonewalled warnings of a terrorist threat her office had sent in before Sept. 11.

Rep. John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, accused the administration of rushing out the Homeland Security scheme to “divert attention” from evidence that it ignored specific warnings that the terrorist attack was imminent. Conyers also warned, the Office of Homeland Security is another step by the Bush administration to sharply increase its law enforcement powers while trampling civil liberties and the Bill of Rights, especially the rights of immigrants.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have fallen over themselves to embrace Bush’s plan.

We ought to pause to consider what we mean by “security.” Bush broke his promise to push through a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. He stonewalled on providing health care coverage for 48 million uninsured. His welfare reauthorization will push millions of mothers and their children deeper into poverty. Finally, his Attorney General holds hundreds of people in detention without a shred of evidence that they are terrorists.

These policies make the rest of us less secure. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once spoke of “four freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Bush is riding roughshod over all four. In this election year, it is time to ask every candidate: Will you stand in defense of these freedoms?


Hate crimes are terrorist acts

Senate Republicans showed their sexist, anti-gay, anti-people and anti-democratic colors when they blocked action June 11 on a bill that would define violent attacks based on gender, sexual orientation, or disability as federal hate crimes.

The bill was supported by a majority of the Senate – 55 senators, including four Republicans – but 60 votes were needed to cut off debate and allow the bill to be voted on.

“By not allowing a vote, they denied victims of hate crimes their day in court,” National Organization for Women (NOW) Action Vice President Olga Vives said.

The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (S-625) would strengthen the 1968 federal hate crimes law, which only covers crimes based on race, religion or national origin and/or color, and then only when the victim is engaged in a federally protected activity.

The Republicans cynically cited the “war on terrorism” in preventing a vote on this bill. But, as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, Senate Republicans “made clear that they will not take action to fight terrorism at home.”

Kennedy said it well: “In the war on terrorism, Americans are fighting abroad to not only protect this nation from future terrorist attacks, but to protect the fundamental freedoms upon which this great nation was built. But here in the United States each year thousands of Americans are attacked out of hatred for their religion, the color of their skin or their sexual orientation. And these senseless acts of violence are also terrorist acts, and we must do all we can to end them.”

Hate crimes are acts of terror against the American people. We urge the bill’s supporters in the Senate to continue the fight for this legislation.

The Republicans’ anti-democratic action in blocking this bill is part and parcel of a vicious onslaught against civil rights and liberties, reminiscent of the darkest days of the McCarthy/spy scare period of the 1950s. All the more reason to gear up to elect progressive, pro-worker, pro-people representatives to Congress this November.