Democrat From Kentucky

Democrat from Kentucky
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Secret Laws and Other Real Stuff Our Gov't Does Sunday, December 11, 2005

What a wonderful, open, free nation we live in. Ever since 9/11, our rights have been dissappearing. Perhaps they were going before, but certainly at a much slower pace. Now they're dissappearing by leaps and bounds. Currently, there are well... there might be laws on the books no one knows about because they're secret. But then, they can't be challenged in open court either so who the hell knows.

My old pal Cynicus should get credit for this one. The Washington Monthly who got the story from CNet published a story yesterday discussing the events of the founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, John Gilmore, who refused to show his identification was not allowed to get onboard an plane. He walked through the metal detector and did all the other provisions but refused to provide the identification. The reason he did so is because no one would state statute which forced him to identify himself. The claimed it was secret. Gilmore is one of a libertarian and a geek. Obviously a fringe player. But what about a former congresswoman who's also an ultra-conservative?

About a year ago, a similar case came up with for Helen Chenowith-Hage, a former Republican congresswoman from Idaho. printed the information back in October of last year.

Chenoweth-Hage, an ultra-conservative former Congresswoman (R-ID), requested a copy of the regulation that authorizes such pat-downs.

"She said she wanted to see the regulation that required the additional procedure for secondary screening and she was told that she couldn't see it," local TSA security director Julian Gonzales told the Idaho Statesman (10/10/04).

"She refused to go through additional screening [without seeing the regulation], and she was not allowed to fly," he said. "It's pretty simple."

Chenoweth-Hage wasn't seeking disclosure of the internal criteria used for screening passengers, only the legal authorization for passenger pat-downs. Why couldn't they at least let her see that? asked Statesman commentator Dan Popkey.

"Because we don't have to," Mr. Gonzales replied crisply.

"That is called 'sensitive security information.' She's not allowed to see it, nor is anyone else," he said.

Thus, in a qualitatively new development in U.S. governance, Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally-binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know.

This is not some dismal Eastern European allegory. It is part of a continuing transformation of American government that is leaving it less open, less accountable and less susceptible to rational deliberation as a vehicle for change.

Harold C. Relyea once wrote an article entitled "The Coming of Secret Law" (Government Information Quarterly, vol. 5, no. 2, 1988) that electrified readers (or at least one reader) with its warning about increased executive branch reliance on secret presidential directives and related instruments.

So...let's look at this logically. The debate will come from the 5th Amendment and what the boundaries are, particular regarding two clauses:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Where exactly does the line lie? Well, to remain in the spirit of the constitution and certainly our founding fathers, one would think on the side liberty. However, the current administration would suggest otherwise, continously stripping away our rights, all in the name of nationalist-socialist security. The only way to beat the Star Chambers is to speak out and make as loud a voice as possible. A change must come soon. Or else our people and our nation won't survive.

posted by Stithmeister @ 9:04 PM

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Location: Harrodsburg, Kentucky, United States

I'm currently working in the telecomm industry but one of my passions is still politics.

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