Lying Media Bastards

May 11, 2005

The Coup

[update]

I have been informed that the panicky article below is based upon an earlier version of this legislation, and that the final version did not contain all the scary bits. For more info, go here.

[/update]

We’ve been overthrown.

All hail our new leader!


Michael Chertoff
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

You want an explanation. Okey dokey.

Yesterday, the Senate approved an emergency spending bill for the war on terrorism. It’s already been passed by the House, and is scheduled to be signed by the president tomorrow.

Buried within that spending bill was the text of the REAL ID act, a shady “security” plan that will institute a National Identity card, that takes one more axe swing at that thing we used to call “privacy”. And it doesn’t keep us much safer either. For a cool $120 million.

But that’s just a footnote here. Buried within that bill is a small bit of text which essentially gives the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security the power to nullify any law he wants, and prohibits the courts from declaring his actions illegal or unconstitutional. For the exact quote:

House Resolution 1268, Section 102.

WAIVER OF LAWS NECESSARY FOR IMPROVEMENT OF BARRIERS AT BORDERS.

Section 102( c ) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is amended to read as follows:

`( c ) Waiver-

`(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.

`(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court, administrative agency, or other entity shall have jurisdiction–

`(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or

`(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.’.

Officially, this allows the head of Homeland Security to waive any law that he thinks it’s necessary to waive to get new barriers built between the US and Mexico border. However, since this bill essentially prevents the courts from second-guessing him, I don’t see what’s there to stop him from waiving any old law.

In other words, Michael Chertoff is the Emporer of the United States.

I’m not saying that I expect him to seize the White House, put an olive branch wreath on his head and demand the return of the Sudetenland. But unless I’m reading that legislation incorrectly, if Bush signs this bill tomorrow as planned, the Homeland Security Czar becomes above the law.

Yes, the rich and the powerful are often above the law in this (and any) country. But that’s usually off the books, the corrupt abusing their power. This abuse here is written into the law itself. And that’s kind of disturbing.

[Thanks to Wil Wheaton and Ars Technica for the scoop]

[crossposted at New Noise]

Posted by Jake on May 11, 2005 4:05 pm

4 Comments »

  1. that is NOT a good thing

    Comment by Luigi — May 11, 2005 @ 11:01 pm

  2. Er…f**k?

    Comment by Tobias — May 12, 2005 @ 10:11 am

  3. I found a different text for part (2) of Section 102(c):

    `(2) FEDERAL COURT REVIEW-

    ‘(A) IN GENERAL- The district courts of the United States shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear all causes or claims arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1). A cause of action or claim may only be brought alleging a violation of the Constitution of the United States. The court shall not have jurisdiction to hear any claim not specified in this subparagraph.

    `(B) TIME FOR FILING OF COMPLAINT- Any cause or claim brought pursuant to subparagraph (A) shall be filed not later than 60 days after the date of the action or decision made by the Secretary of Homeland Security. A claim shall be barred unless it is filed within the time specified.

    `(C) ABILITY TO SEEK APPELLATE REVIEW- An interlocutory or final judgment, decree, or order of the district court may be reviewed only upon petition for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States.’.

    The version you have has been, according to http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?c109:5:./temp/~c109t5h1r2:e124214: , “struck-out.” Score one for vertebrate Democrats and reasonable Republicans.

    Comment by Robby — May 12, 2005 @ 11:26 am

  4. Robby’s right. I’ll post a correction when I get a chance.

    Comment by Jake — May 12, 2005 @ 12:13 pm

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