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The Homeland Security Act

President Bush (left) and the Director of the Office of Homeland Security Tom Ridge

A key provision of the ‘Homeland Security Act’ grants immunity to the pharmaceutical companies for present and future product liability claims for vaccines. Further plans for ‘medical litigation reform’ include limiting product liability lawsuits against drug companies.

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Breaking News: The New York Times on March 15:
"On Terror and Spying, Ashcroft Expands Reach"

Quote from the article:
"Even some of his conservative peers complain that Mr. Ashcroft may have grown too powerful. To his critics, Mr. Ashcroft is a Big Brother figure: an attorney general whose expanding scope has allowed the Justice Department to use wiretaps, backroom decisions, and an expanded street presence to spy on ordinary Americans, read their e-mail messages, or monitor their library checkouts, all in the name of fighting terrorism. And the department's consideration of proposals that could give it still greater, secret counterterrorism authority has provoked a fresh round of concerns."

Homeland Security

Eli Lilly Payback Provision in the Homeland Security Bill

The conservative argument in favor of the special Eli Lilly Payback Provision of the Homeland Security bill is essentially this: there's no scientific evidence linking the vaccine preservative thimerosal to autism--only anecdotal (which is true). The evil trial lawyers, however, will use this anecdotal evidence to bankrupt, I tell you, bankrupt the pharmaceutical industry, and then when the terrorists unleash smallpox or some other biological agent upon us, we'll have no vaccines with which to protect ourselves, because the pharmaceutical companies will have all closed up shop and gone home.

Cities Urge Restraint in Fight Against Terror

(December 20, 2002) -- Nearly two dozen cities around the country have passed resolutions urging federal authorities to respect the civil rights of local citizens when fighting terrorism. Efforts to pass similar measures are under way in more than 60 other places. Supporters of the resolutions say the measures have grown out of a belief that the Patriot Act of 2001, the Homeland Security Act passed this year and a series of executive orders have given the federal government too much muscle in its war against terrorism at the expense of average Americans, especially Muslims. The 2001 act expands government powers in such matters as electronic surveillance, search warrants and detention.

The Legal Twists in Securing a Homeland

(November 27, 2002) - You have to question the wisdom of legislation that encourages private citizens to share information they've collected with our federal government. Offer them immunity from civil prosecution for their information and you're asking for a witch hunt. Prevent the press from gaining access to the information and source materials, and you've got a formula for framing innocent citizens and a prescription for a cover-up.

Al Gore on the Homeland Security Act

(November 19, 2002) - A. GORE: Well, the fear -- the fear is warranted, but the remedy needs to be matched to the threat. And see, what is -- the objective of terrorists is to destroy our way of life. We should not give them part of their victory by destroying important parts of our own way of life. And a right to privacy is a part of every American's right. And this whole -- you know, for many years going back to George Orwell and before, there have been these warnings that the new technologies of communication and wiretapping and everything create the possibility of a Big Brother-type state, and we've always pushed that away and said, No, we want nothing like that in the U.S. We will cast our lot with free speech and openness and the rights of the individual.

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You Are a Suspect!

(November 14, 2002) - If the Homeland Security Act is not amended before passage, here is what will happen to you: Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as "a virtual, centralized grand database."

The Patriot Act

Patriot II's attack on citizenship

(March 6, 2003) - A basic principle of American democracy is that members of government serve at the behest of the citizenry, and not vice-versa. The people, being sovereign, can use their votes to "throw the bastards out," even though the government has no reciprocal power to jettison disfavored citizens. Yet with the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, informally known as "Patriot II," this basic rule is under attack. The draft legislation, the Justice Department's proposed sequel to the 2001 USA Patriot Act, was recently made public after being leaked to the Center for Public Integrity. The bill would go well beyond its predecessor in threatening essential civil liberties.

US Patriot Act laws are curbing disease research say scientists

(February 23, 2003) New federal laws meant to control bioterrorism are making it considerably tougher for researchers to continue work with such agents as anthrax and the plague, just as the United States reaches the brink of war with the country that supposedly possesses the greatest bioterrorism threat in the world. Starting to take effect this month, the rules require all researchers to register bioterrorism agents with the federal government -- and make sure they are in secure facilities, which are rare and expensive to build.

Ashcroft proposes vast new surveillance powers

(February 12, 2003) Proposed legislation leaked to the Internet on Friday would criminalize some uses of encryption, and dramatically increase federal law enforcement's domestic spying powers.A sweeping new anti-terrorism bill drafted by the Justice Department would dramatically increase government electronic surveillance and data collection abilities, and impose the first-ever federal criminal penalties for using encryption in the U.S.

European Security Organizations Criticizes U.S. Surveillance Law

(January 23, 2003) - The media watchdog in Europe's leading security organization criticized the United States on Thursday for snooping on the private lives of Americans with a law passed in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In a reproach to the Big Brother-like tactics creeping up on post-Sept. 11 America, Freimut Duve of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe condemned the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for monitoring library records and bookstore receipts under the USA Patriot Act.

Patriot Act chills First Amendment freedoms

(January 22, 2003) - The US Department of Justice will not supply even the most general information concerning the use of its new surveillance powers. This attitude denies the American people basic information they need to provide meaningful guidance to the department. The Act has been amended a number of times to give greater access to public documents. The Act contains a provision that allows a federal agency to refuse an FOIA request if national security interests are at stake. However, the Ashcroft memo limiting what can be released sweeps much further than the original national security provision.

SF Supervisors Oppose Patriot Act

( January 22, 2003) - The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has passed a resolution opposing the Patriot Act on the grounds it violates civil rights. "The USA Patriot Act encourages the use of racial profiling and creates an atmosphere of hate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong," said Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, who introduced the resolution. "This is something we in San Francisco will not tolerate."

Total Information Awareness

Bay State entities building record-tracking technology

(March 7, 2003) - A handful of Massachusetts businesses are helping to develop a controversial Defense Department antiterrorism program that has been attacked by critics as an assault on individual privacy. Lexington-based defense giant Raytheon Co., Woburn's Aptima Inc. and Burlington's AlphaTech Inc. have won Total Information Awareness project contracts. A handful of other local firms and universities bid unsuccessfully for work on the project.

DOD spy database funding revealed

(February 27, 2003) - The U.S. Defense Department has awarded millions of dollars to more than two-dozen research projects that involve a controversial data-mining project aimed at compiling electronic dossiers on Americans. Nearly 200 Corporations and universities submitted proposals to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, according to government documents brought to light by a privacy group Thursday. John Poindexter, who oversees the agency’s Total Information Awareness (TIA) program, approved 26 of them last fall, including grants to the University of Southern California, the Palo Alto Research Center, and defense contractor Science Applications International.

Udall Joins House Members to Block Total Information Awareness Program

(February 12, 2003) - U.S. Representative Tom Udall (D-NM) today joined a bipartisan effort to block the controversial Total Information Awareness (TIA) project until Congress can review privacy issues related to the plan. The TIA program - a wide-ranging Pentagon monitoring scheme that critics say could threaten the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans - aims to develop technology to collect information on all financial transactions, travel, medical records and other activities of all citizens of the United States.

Snooping in All the Wrong Places

(December 18, 2002) - Not only would the Administration's plan to centralize every American's records destroy privacy, the security payoff would be minimal. The 2002 elections proved one thing: The promise of security wins votes. The GOP campaigned on a pledge to make the country safer, and it brought home one of the biggest midterm victories in decades. That huge win may have emboldened the Bush Administration to ignore widespread criticism of the Defense Dept.'s $240 million effort to develop a Total Information Awareness system (TIA).

Related Literature

by George Orwell

Winstone Smith (front) and the Big Brother system in a scene from the 1984 motion picture.

In a grim city and a terrifying country, where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind, Winston is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. He knows the Party's official image of the world is a fluid fiction. He knows the Party controls the people by feeding them lies and narrowing their imaginations through a process of bewilderment and brutalization that alienates each individual from his fellows and deprives him of every liberating human pursuit from reasoned inquiry to sexual passion.

Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.

Newspeak, doublethink, thoughtcrime -- in his novel "1984", George Orwell created a whole vocabulary of words concerning totalitarian control that have since passed into our common vocabulary. More importantly, he has portrayed a chillingly credible dystopia. In our deeply anxious world, the seeds of unthinking conformity are everywhere in evidence; and Big Brother is always looking for his chance.

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