from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
September 21, 2001
CIVIL LIBERTIES IN WARTIME
- CIVIL LIBERTIES IN WARTIME
- STATE DEPT MULLS "BOOK BURNING"
An exceptionally diverse coalition of citizens' groups, law professors and others came together last Thursday to urge that the nation's response to terrorism be pursued "calmly and deliberately with a determination not to erode the liberties and freedoms that are at the core of the American way of life."
"We can, as we have in the past, in times of war and of peace, reconcile the requirements of security with the demands of liberty," according to a declaration issued by the ad hoc coalition.
"We need to ensure that actions by our government uphold the principles of a democratic society, accountable government and international law, and that all decisions are taken in a manner consistent with the Constitution." See:
This message appears to have been widely internalized by government officials and political leaders of both parties. It is hard to find anyone who is out to "trash the Constitution."
"We're going to do everything we can to harmonize the constitutional rights of individuals with every legal capacity we can muster to also protect the safety and security of individuals," Attorney General John Ashcroft said on September 18.
"We are a democracy," said House Majority Leader Dick Armey yesterday. "What we are trying to save is our civil liberties."
Draft legislation introduced by the Justice Department this week has some questionable features, but Senate leaders said that the proposal will not be rubber stamped. A September 19 draft of the proposed legislation with critical analysis may be found here:
A rather intelligent dialogue on "civil liberties in wartime" was published September 17-21 in Slate.com between Stewart Baker, former NSA General Counsel, and Eugene Volokh, a UCLA professor of constitutional law.
Baker analyzed the new wiretap measures adopted by the Senate September 13 and concluded that "If this is the worst threat our liberties face, we're doing very well indeed."
Volokh noted that one must assess not only the direct impact of proposed new laws, but also the potential for abuse that they inadvertently create and the capacity of oversight to detect abuse. "Properly run [such laws] might intrude on privacy only in constitutionally permissible ways -- if we can trust the government to properly run them," he wrote.
The week-long dialogue begins here:
One of the most sensible proposals around is that any new anti-terrorism legislation that is adopted in the current threat environment "should come with a sunset provision, requiring the law to lapse after two years unless it is reenacted," as argued by Yale law professor Bruce Ackerman in the Los Angeles Times yesterday.
"The rise of terrorism undoubtedly requires a serious debate over the proper balance between liberty and security in the 21st century. But Congress should not provide permanent answers when we have not even begun to ask the right questions."
See "Sunset Can Put a Halt to Twilight of Liberty" here:
STATE DEPT MULLS "BOOK BURNING"
The Department of State is under growing pressure from the Central Intelligence Agency to destroy its inventory of an official history of U.S. relations with Greece during the 1960s and to replace it with a new, sanitized version.
Some 1500 copies of "Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1964-1968, volume XVI" on US policy towards Greece, Cyprus, Turkey have been printed. But they have been withheld from circulation because of last minute concerns raised by the CIA.
The sticking point appears to be a handful of documents that allude to CIA intervention in the electoral process in Greece some 35 years ago. CIA officials claim that release of such documents could upset current relations with Greece or even provide a pretext for terrorism. Similar claims that were made earlier this year with respect to another FRUS volume on Indonesia proved unfounded.
A CIA proposal to dispose of the existing inventory of the FRUS volume on Greece and to reprint the volume without the offending documents "has been bruited for weeks," according to one government historian familiar with the situation.
"Every time the subject is raised in my presence, I mention those dread words 'cover up.' Or at least they should be dread words. It seems to me that the existence of the volumes is too well known. Destroying them would be a huge public relations disaster for the U.S. government," the historian said yesterday. "Book burning is definitely not a politically correct thing to do."
"I don't know why the Agency is so over-the-top on this issue," the historian said. "Maybe they really do know more than they're telling us."
Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet has gotten personally involved in the matter, attempting to enlist the help of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in blocking release of the official history.
According to one source, Mr. Tenet contacted Mr. Armitage to discuss the matter as recently as the night of September 10, at a time when his attention might have been more profitably directed elsewhere. A State Department official would not confirm or deny that the September 10 conversation took place.
The suppression of the FRUS volume was reported by the Washington Post on August 17. It was discussed in an August 12 article in the Greek press here:
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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