July 31, 2002
If Bill Clinton were still in the White House, Republicans would be
on the march against Bigger Government and Bigger Spending.
Unfortunately, too many prominent Republicans are cottoning up to
increased federal control and the increased spending that goes with it.
One of the five components of the Citizen Corps, created by the
President in January, is Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and
Prevention System). This is designed to be "a nationwide program to help
thousands of American truck drivers, letter carriers, train conductors,
ship captains, and utility workers report potential terrorist activity."
Operation TIPS calls on Americans, in their daily course of work
activities, to monitor and report "suspicious" activities to a central
reporting center. You can bet that all those "suspicious" activities
will be entered on a national database available to the prying eyes of
Majority Leader Dick Armey objects; the Homeland legislation his
committee just reported out specifically prohibits implementation of
Operation TIPS. And the U.S. Postal Service announced that our friendly
letter carriers are not going to double as government spies.
When we observe something illegal or potentially dangerous, of
course we should sound an alarm, as the airplane passenger did when he
saw his seatmate lighting a fuse in his shoe. But common-sense alertness
is a far cry from institutionalizing a federal system of informers.
The President's 90-page National Strategy for Homeland Security
(NSHS) released on July 16 sets us on the path of morphing driver's
licenses into a national ID card, a longtime goal of big-government types
who hope that our fears about a repeat of 9/11 give them the opportunity
to push this thoroughly un-American idea. Highlighting the diversity of
state laws, the NSHS includes a vague requirement to "coordinate
suggested minimum standards for state driver's licenses."
Congress actually passed legislation in 1996 requiring driver's
licenses to contain a Social Security number that could be read visually
or electronically. After the voters found out that this provision would
turn driver's licenses into national ID cards, it was repealed in 1999.
The Homeland legislation reported out of Rep. Armey's committee
includes this caveat: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to
authorize the development of a national identification system or card."
Instead of trying to take over driver's licenses, which are and
should be under state jurisdiction, the federal government should be
cleaning up the irresponsible way it issues visas to people from
terrorist countries. We do need an identification system for aliens with
smart ID cards to assure that they live up to the terms of their entry
and go home when their visa time is up.
The Fourth of July murderer at the Los Angeles airport was in the
United States because he took advantage of the now-expired 254(i) amnesty
loophole (which, unfortunately, President Bush is trying to get Congress
to revive), and his wife won legal residence through Ted Kennedy's Visa
Diversity Lottery Law. A good start on Homeland Security would be to
deep-six every kind of amnesty and repeal the Diversity Lottery.
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon were surprised to learn
that the NSHS calls for a "plan for military support to civil
authorities." Military support, such as through the National Guard, is
to include "technical support and assistance to law enforcement,
assisting in the restoration of law and order, loaning specialized
equipment, and assisting in consequence management."
Those dangerous concepts remind us of the use of the military
(including tanks) against civilians that resulted in the 1993
incineration of dozens of children at the Branch Davidian home near Waco,
Texas. If U.S. troops are to defend us against terrorists, they should
be used to prevent suspicious aliens from coming across our borders, not
for police work against U.S. citizens.
Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, the head of Bush's newly established
Northern Command for domestic security, said we should review the Posse
Comitatus law "if we think it ties our hands." But tying the hands of
the military over civilians is what Posse Comitatus is supposed to do.
In 1998 the Clinton Administration proposed a federal regulation
called Know Your Customer, which would have turned your friendly local
banker into a snoop reporting to the federal database called FinCen any
deviation from what the bank decided is your deposits/withdrawal profile.
The American people responded with 300,000 angry e-mail criticisms and
the regulation was withdrawn.
The Bush Administration's proposed regulations to implement the USA
Patriot Act passed last year are even more intrusive. Some people seem
to think it's acceptable to profile the bank accounts of law-abiding
citizens but not acceptable to profile Middle Eastern Muslim aliens who
might hijack an airplane.
Americans must not allow the 9/11 terrorists to turn America into a
police state. The job of the Federal Government is to stop suspicious
people at the border.