Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'
Is the Pentagon building U.S.-based prison camps for Muslim immigrants?
Evidence points to the possibility.
Not that George W. Bush needs much encouragement, but Sen. Lindsey Graham
suggested to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new target for the administration's
domestic operations—Fifth Columnists, supposedly disloyal Americans
who sympathize and collaborate with the enemy.
"The administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion,
to pursue Fifth Column movements," Graham, R-S.C., told Gonzales during
Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 6.
"I stand by this president's ability, inherent to being commander in
chief, to find out about Fifth Column movements, and I don't think you need
a warrant to do that," Graham added, volunteering to work with the administration
to draft guidelines for how best to neutralize this alleged threat.
"Senator," a smiling Gonzales responded, "the president already
said we'd be happy to listen to your ideas."
In less paranoid times, Graham's comments might be viewed by many Americans
as a Republican trying to have it both ways—ingratiating himself to
an administration of his own party while seeking some credit from Washington
centrists for suggesting Congress should have at least a tiny say in how Bush
runs the War on Terror.
But recent developments suggest that the Bush administration may already
be contemplating what to do with Americans who are deemed insufficiently loyal
or who disseminate information that may be considered helpful to the enemy.
Top U.S. officials have cited the need to challenge
news that undercuts Bush's actions as a key front in defeating the terrorists,
who are aided by "news informers," in the words of Defense Secretary
Plus, there was that curious development in January when the Army Corps of
Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown &
Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers
somewhere in the United States, to deal with "an emergency influx
of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development
of new programs," KBR said. [MarketWatch,
Later, the New
York Times reported that "KBR would build the centers for
the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to
house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require
additional detention space."
Like most news stories on the KBR contract, the Times focused on concerns
about Halliburton's reputation for bilking U.S. taxpayers by overcharging
for sub-par services. "It's hard to believe that the administration has
decided to entrust Halliburton with even more taxpayer dollars," remarked
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
Less attention centered on the phrase "rapid development of
new programs" and what kind of programs would require a major
expansion of detention centers, each capable of holding 5,000 people. Jamie
Zuieback, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined
to elaborate on what these "new programs" might be.
Only a few independent journalists, such as Peter Dale Scott and Maureen
Farrell, have pursued what the Bush administration might actually be thinking.
Scott speculated [in the perenially paranoid Global
Research] that the "detention centers could be used to detain American
citizens if the Bush administration were to declare martial law." He
recalled that during the Reagan administration, National Security Council
aide Oliver North organized Rex-84 "readiness exercise," which contemplated
the Federal Emergency Management Agency rounding up and detaining 400,000
"refugees," in the event of "uncontrolled population movements"
over the Mexican border into the United States.
Farrell pointed out [on Buzzflash]
that because "another terror attack is all but certain, it seems far
more likely that the centers would be used for post-911-type detentions of
immigrants rather than a sudden deluge" of immigrants flooding across
Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said, "Almost certainly this
is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims
and possibly dissenters. They've already done this on a smaller scale, with
the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries,
and with Guantanamo."
There also was another little-noticed item posted at the U.S. Army website,
about the Pentagon's Civilian Inmate Labor Program. This program "provides
Army policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and
civilian prison camps on Army installations."
The Army document, first drafted in 1997, underwent a "rapid action
revision" on Jan. 14, 2005. The revision provides a "template for
developing agreements" between the Army and corrections facilities for
the use of civilian inmate labor on Army installations.
On its face, the Army's labor program refers to inmates housed in federal,
state and local jails. The Army also cites various federal laws that govern
the use of civilian labor and provide for the establishment of prison camps
in the United States, including a federal
statute that authorizes the attorney general to "establish, equip,
and maintain camps upon sites selected by him" and "make available
… the services of United States prisoners" to various government
departments, including the Department of Defense.
Though the timing of the document's posting—within the past few weeks—may
just be a coincidence, the reference to a "rapid action revision"
and the KBR contract's contemplation of "rapid development of new programs"
has raised eyebrows about why this sudden need for urgency.
These developments also are drawing more attention now because of earlier
Bush administration policies to involve the Pentagon in "counter-terrorism"
operations inside the United States.
Despite the Posse Comitatus Act's prohibitions against U.S. military personnel
engaging in domestic law enforcement, the Pentagon has expanded its operations
beyond previous boundaries, such as its role in domestic surveillance activities.
Post has reported [Nov. 27, 2005] that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror
attacks, the Defense Department has been creating new agencies that gather
and analyze intelligence within the United States.
The White House also is moving to expand the power of the Pentagon's Counterintelligence
Field Activity (CIFA),
created three years ago to consolidate counterintelligence operations. The
White House proposal would transform CIFA into an office that has authority
to investigate crimes such as treason, terrorist sabotage or economic espionage.
The Pentagon also has pushed legislation in Congress that would create an
intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to
share information about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence
agencies. But some in the Pentagon don't seem to think that new laws are even
In a 2001 Defense Department memo
that surfaced in January 2005, the U.S. Army's top intelligence officer wrote,
"Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on [military] intelligence
components collecting U.S. person information."
Drawing a distinction between "collecting" information and "receiving"
information on U.S. citizens, the memo argued that "MI [military intelligence]
may receive information from anyone, anytime."
This receipt of information presumably would include data from the National
Security Agency, which has been engaging in surveillance of U.S. citizens
without court-approved warrants in apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence
Security Act. Bush approved the program of warrantless wiretaps shortly after
There also may be an even more extensive surveillance program. Former NSA
employee Russell D. Tice told a congressional committee on Feb. 14 that such
a top-secret surveillance program existed, but he said he couldn't discuss
the details without breaking classification laws.
Tice added that the "special access" surveillance program may be
violating the constitutional rights of millions of Americans. With this expanded
surveillance, the government's list of terrorist suspects is rapidly swelling.
Post reported on Feb. 15 that the National Counterterrorism Center's central
repository now holds the names of 325,000 terrorist suspects, a fourfold increase
since the fall of 2003. Asked whether the names in the repository were collected
through the NSA's domestic surveillance program, an NCTC official told the
Post, "Our database includes names of known and suspected international
terrorists provided by all intelligence community organizations, including
As the administration scoops up more and more names, members of Congress
also have questioned the elasticity of Bush's definitions for words like terrorist
"affiliates," used to justify wiretapping Americans allegedly in
contact with such people or entities.
During the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on the wiretap program, Sen.
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that the House and Senate Intelligence
committees "have not been briefed on the scope and nature of the program."
Feinstein added that, therefore, the committees "have not been able
to explore what is a link or an affiliate to al-Qaida or what minimization
procedures (for purging the names of innocent people) are in place."
The combination of the Bush administration's expansive reading of its own
power and its insistence on extraordinary secrecy has raised the alarm of
civil libertarians when contemplating how far the Pentagon might go in involving
itself in domestic matters.
A Defense Department document, entitled the "Strategy for Homeland Defense
and Civil Support," has set out a military strategy against terrorism
that envisions an "active, layered defense" both inside and outside
U.S. territory. In the document, the Pentagon pledges to "transform U.S.
military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the … U.S. homeland."
The Pentagon strategy paper calls for increased military reconnaissance and
surveillance to "defeat potential challengers before they threaten the
United States." The plan "maximizes threat awareness and seizes
the initiative from those who would harm us."
But there are concerns over how the Pentagon judges "threats" and
who falls under the category "those who would harm us." A Pentagon
official said the Counterintelligence Field Activity's TALON program has amassed
files on antiwar protesters.
In December  2005, NBC News
revealed the existence of a secret 400-page Pentagon document listing 1,500
"suspicious incidents" over a 10-month period, including dozens
of small antiwar demonstrations that were classified as a "threat."
The Defense Department also might be moving toward legitimizing the use of
propaganda domestically, as part of its overall war strategy.
A secret Pentagon "Information Operations Roadmap," approved by
Rumsfeld in October 2003, calls for "full spectrum" information
operations and notes that "information intended for foreign audiences,
including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic
audience and vice versa."
"PSYOPS messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger
audiences, including the American public," the document states. The Pentagon
argues, however, that "the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences
becomes more a question of USG [U.S. government] intent rather than information
It calls for "boundaries" between information operations abroad
and the news media at home, but does not outline any corresponding limits
on PSYOP campaigns.
Similar to the distinction the Pentagon draws between "collecting"
and "receiving" intelligence on U.S. citizens, the Information Operations
Roadmap argues that as long as the American public is not intentionally "targeted,"
any PSYOP propaganda consumed by the American public is acceptable.
The Pentagon plan also includes a strategy for taking over the internet and
controlling the flow of information, viewing the web as a potential military
adversary. The "roadmap" speaks of "fighting the net,"
and implies that the internet is the equivalent of "an enemy weapons
In a speech on Feb. 17 to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumsfeld elaborated
on the administration's perception that the battle over information would
be a crucial front in the War on Terror, or as Rumsfeld calls it, the Long
"Let there be no doubt, the longer it takes to put a strategic communication
framework into place, the more we can be certain that the vacuum will be filled
by the enemy and by news informers that most assuredly will not paint an accurate
picture of what is actually taking place," Rumsfeld said.
The Department of Homeland Security also has demonstrated a tendency to deploy
military operatives to deal with domestic crises.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the department dispatched "heavily
armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm,
infamous for its work in Iraq, (and had them) openly patrolling the streets
of New Orleans," reported journalists Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo
on Sept. 10, 2005. [Truthout]
Noting the reputation of the Blackwater mercenaries as "some of the
most feared professional killers in the world," Scahill and Crespo said
Blackwater's presence in New Orleans "raises alarming questions about
why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places
like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here."
In the view of some civil libertarians, a form of martial law already exists
in the United States and has been in place since shortly after the 9/11 attacks
when Bush issued Military Order No. 1 which empowered him to detain any noncitizen
as an international terrorist or enemy combatant.
"The president decided that he was no longer running the country as
a civilian president," wrote civil rights attorney Michael Ratner in
the book "Guantanamo: What the World Should Know." "He issued
a military order giving himself the power to run the country as a general."
For any American citizen suspected of collaborating with terrorists, Bush
also revealed what's in store. In May 2002, the FBI arrested U.S. citizen
Jose Padilla in Chicago on suspicion that he might be an al-Qaida operative
planning an attack.
Rather than bring criminal charges, Bush designated Padilla an "enemy
combatant" and had him imprisoned indefinitely without benefit of due
process. After three years, the administration finally brought charges against
Padilla, in order to avoid a Supreme Court showdown the White House might
But since the court was not able to rule on the Padilla case, the administration's
arguments have not been formally repudiated. Indeed, despite filing charges
against Padilla, the White House still asserts the right to detain U.S. citizens
without charges as enemy combatants.
This claimed authority is based on the assertion that the United States is
at war and the American homeland is part of the battlefield.
"In the war against terrorists of global reach, as the nation learned
all too well on Sept. 11, 2001, the territory of the United States is part
of the battlefield," Bush's lawyers argued in briefs to the federal courts.
Given Bush's now open assertions that he is using his "plenary"
-- or unlimited -- powers as commander in chief for the duration of the indefinite
War on Terror, Americans can no longer trust that their constitutional rights
protect them from government actions.
As former Vice President Al Gore asked after recounting a litany of sweeping
powers that Bush has asserted to fight the War on Terror, "Can it be
true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If
the answer is 'yes,' then under the theory by which these acts are committed,
are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?"
In such extraordinary circumstances, the American people might legitimately
ask exactly what the Bush administration means by the "rapid development
of new programs," which might require the construction of a new network
of detention camps.