Apr 222011

Yesterday Congressman Cliff Stearns’ (R-Fl) amendment to the 9/11 first responders aid bill went into effect.  What is this amendment you ask?  One that has the gall to question the patriotism of the heroes of that terrible day:

“(5) DISQUALIFICATION OF INDIVIDUALS ON TERRORIST WATCH LIST.-No individual who is on the terrorist watch list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security shall qualify as an eligible WTC responder. Before enrolling any individual as a WTC responder in the WTC Program under paragraph (3), the Administrator, in  consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall determine whether the  individual is on such a list.”

It is exactly what it says it is. To add insult to injury the amendment was added to the bill without dissent with this odious provision going into effect yesterday. There are no words that can truly describe the depth of the disrespect shown by both parties in Congress.

With fears of Muslim takeover fanned by the Cordoba House controversy and Peter King’s radicalization circus Congress has, in the name of “pragmatic politics” acquiesced to the worst in us.  Saying any group of people, including the greatest heroes of the past decade, can be investigated as terrorists by Congressional fiat attacks the foundations of our criminal justice system.  Ever since the adoption of the Bill of Rights in 1789 one of the bedrock principals of our legal system is probable cause.  Searches, arrests, and indictments cannot be obtained for any charge without first proving there is a very solid, justifiable reason to be poking around in the private lives of American citizens.  With a simple voice vote Congress has swept aside any need for probable cause declaring everyone who worked at Ground Zero in the days and weeks following 9/11 is now a suspect for terrorism.  As far as our elected representatives are concerned “pragmatic” politics trumps the rights of American heroes.

What is worse are the chilling implications of this act.  When the best among us, the heroes who rose to the call, can be declared terror suspects then any one can be put under the same microscope for no better reason than “national security” or “practical politics.”  If the Ground Zero workers can be thrown on the pyre of a new witch hunt on Congressional whim then what is stopping legislators from tossing others into the flames in a fit of political hysteria?

CORRECTION: The provision was included in the bill passed last year.  The amendment’s effects as per the Huffington Post went into effect yesterday which they learned through an unnamed source.

Also published at Ryan’s Desk

  31 Responses to “New McCarthyism”

  1. i agree whole heartedly . is there no stopping the tea party/radical conservative maniacs. this kind of stuff needs to be looked at closely , not just passed for political expediancy.do these folks ,our congress men/weman not look at or consider past history, remembering how dangerous any kind of McCartharthyism is ? not be even mention the insult to the heroes of one of most recent attacks on US soil. Kilm

    • Right now Muslims are the political target du jour. What happens when they move that to any other group on the fringes of society with little to no political pull or representation?

  2. Even by the very low standards now well established by Pagan+Politics this is a pointless, incoherent rant. The amendment in question was actually adopted almost a full year ago, as the date on pdf (linked to in the original post) clearly shows.

    Some misguided Islamic apologists are trying to fan the flames with hysterical rhetoric about this provision. Every single person affected by this (that is, 9/11 responders who will benefit from the bill signed into law by President Obama in January 2 of this year), has been sent notification telling them very explicitly that there is no suspicion, whatsoever, that any 9/11 responders are on the terror watch list.

    • As per the second link in the article said provision, in fact, was added yesterday. Specifically you seem to have completely ignored the part from the second link that says, “A provision in the new 9/11 health bill”.

      That aside I find it rather entertaining that for a post allegedly refuting a “pointless, incoherent rant” first resorts to a personal attack, proves that you did not read the post or check all the links included, and then you pile it on by claiming anyone taking this line of thought is an “Islamic apologist.” Talk about throwing logic out the window in favor of a string of logical fallacies and a total lack of a real argument.

      I find it rather shocking that you have no problem with the 9/11 heroes being subjected to such an investigation in the first place. If there is no suspicion of them being terror suspects then why does every single applicant for health benefits have to be screened based on said watch list?

      • It is not a new provision. The beginning of the first sentence reads “A provision in the new 9/11 health bill …”. It does NOT read “A new provision in the 9/11 health bill ….”

        Word order is very important in the English language.

        Further on, the linked to story reads: “It’s a requirement that was tacked onto the law during the bitter debates over it last year.”

        • And said requirement is being put into effect now.

          By the way you completely mangled my word order in your reply to make your point. If you’re going to go after my grammar at least cite what I actually said instead of what you wish I said.

        • And by the way I notice you did not answer my question. Quibble over grammar and dates all you want, that doesn’t change the investigation mandated ignores presumption of innocence and probable cause.

    • “…the very low standards now well established by Pagan+Politics …”


      You are welcome to share your disagreements and criticisms of articles here on Pagan+Politics, but personal attacks against the writers or the blog project as a whole are not acceptable (please refresh your memory on the role of civility and hospitality in our Comment Policy).

      The writers on this blog work hard to provide quality writing on today’s political issues, in the spirit of bipartisan conversation and diversity. If you have such a low opinion of this blog, you are free not to read it, and to share your opinions in your own space. But future comments with irrelevant personal attacks and snide remarks denigrating the efforts of writers here will be deleted.

      • Ali, I would suggest that the ‘writers on this blog” put a little more effort into their own writing, and not be too thin-skinned about criticism.

        As a Pagan I consider “Pagan+Politics” an ongoing embarrassment. If you don’t like hearing that you are free to delete my comments.

        • Then why are you here? Vote with your feet.

          • I’m sorry. I was unaware of the “no criticism allowed” rule.

          • And seriously, get a grip. Telling people who voice sentiments you disagree with to simply go away is both the ultimate expression of closed-mindedness.

          • ^ Nice, and perfectly non-constructive response.

            Of course we shouldn’t criticize anything about this country in an attempt to make it better, we should just sit back and let the government do whatever it wishes. Perhaps you’re in the wrong country, Cat, because over here, one of our foundational principles is that the government is not beyond reproach.

            In my opinion, whether you agree with the OP or not, ‘freedom watchdogs’ serve a critical role in this country.

            • Hi Gitana, Cat’s non-constructive response was actually directed at me, not at the Original Post. But the powers-that-be at Pagan+Politics decided to arbitrarily censor my comment, while leaving Cat’s response dangling in mid air.

              Four of my comments were censored, actually. Which is pretty freaking ironic in the comments section on a post screaming hysterically about “McCarthyism”!

              • Apuleius,

                You were given an explanation as to why your comments were removed (and a clarification in a follow-up post). Unlike the United States government, this blog is not a democracy, and you do not have an inherent right to say whatever you like. You are invited to participate in constructive dialogue with civility and hospitality, as per our Comment Policy. Comments that do not fall under these guidelines will be removed. It’s that simple.

                McCarythism” is “the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence.” Facilitators of a website exercising their ability to remove reader feedback that clearly violates a Comment Policy that has been in place since the inception of the website is in no way similar to any such practice. You are welcome to voice your criticisms of this blog on your own web-space and to your own readers. You are also welcome to contact us privately via our Contact Form. But the Pagan Newswire Collective is in no way beholden to you personally to provide you with a public space in which to vent your disparagement. There are plenty of free blog services available for that purpose.

                • Actually, the comment which seems to have caused the most offense remains on full display. There is no logic to which comments have been censored and which were not.

                  The whole thing is pathetic. I say that Pagan+Politics has “low standards” and that it is an “ongoing embarrassment” to me as a Pagan, and this is deemed beyond the pale. You people really need to get thicker skins if you ever want to be taken seriously.

                • Apuleisu,

                  Your most recent comment has been removed for continued violation of the Comment Policy, but to clarify: your original comment was not removed for two reasons. (a) It was posted before you received your first warning; only comments posted after the warning were removed. (b) Despite your incivility, Ryan salvaged that thread by addressing the substance of your point and subsequently editing his post to reflect his correction. Leaving a record of what led to his correction seemed fair. You are right, however, I did not enforce the Comment Policy as strictly in regards to your very first comment. If you like, I can go back and remove it, if you feel that consistency is important.

            • It looks like WordPress is being screwy with properly attaching replies to their intended post. Anyone with more technical expertise than me have any ideas?

              • If you delete a nested comment then all the nesting in that sub-thread, beneath the deleted comment, gets broken. There’s really no way to “properly attach replies” when the comment being replied to has been deleted.

  3. I’ve updated the entry to better reflect the correction of the information and avoid potential confusion. After reading over the piece again after posting the initial correction there was still some confusing wording that needed to be fixed.

    Mea culpa.

  4. “With a simple voice vote Congress has swept aside any need for probable cause declaring everyone who worked at Ground Zero in the days and weeks following 9/11 is now a suspect for terrorism.”

    Now…I may be wrong here, and maybe this part wasn’t included in the quote you provided, but this admendment in no way declares everyone who worked at groudn zero to be a terrorist suspect. As you highlighted it says this:

    “No individual who is on the terrorist watch list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security shall qualify as an eligible WTC responder.”

    Now, as distasteful as some might find this, It merely states that those individuals on the watch list will not be counted. So unless you can put up hard evidence that Every. Single. First. Responder. Is. On. That. List. Then it would seem that you have typed a bit faster than was needed, because I doubt all first responders are on that list. In fact, I doubt there are any on that list, or at least that there are more than a very, very few. This amendment has not declared all the heroes guilty, nor has it declared that any American citizen can now be hunted down.

    • What probable cause does the government have to check if the first responders are on the watch list in the first place?

      • What is your understanding of the constitutional principle of “probable cause”, Ryan? It seems a bit broad.

        • The one used as the standard in American jurisprudence which says there must be a reasonable belief someone committed a crime. What reasonable belief would the US government have for believing 9/11 first responders could be terrorists?

          • You are wrong Ryan. “Probable cause” does not apply here. Probable cause applies to arrests and searches, and also to grand jury indictments. No one is being arrested, no one is being searched, and no one is being considered for indictment by a grand jury.

            All actions by the government do not fall under “probably cause”.

            The provision is stupid. But crying “McCarthyism” in this case is not remotely justified. And there is not basis for talking about “probable cause”.

            • The Fifth Amendment clearly states as one of its protections that no person:

              “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”

              And furthermore the Fourteenth Amendment affirms this with:

              “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”

              Denying the benefits this bill offers to the 9/11 first responders without any form of due process would be depriving them of there essential liberties. It is an infringement of their rights to be investigated against a secret list with no recourse for appeal by Congressional fiat alone. That this investigation could strip the first responders of aid they need to pay for crippling and in some cases terminal conditions they now must endure because of their heroism is adding insult to the injury to their rights.

              You are in the course of your argument over the legality missing the much larger implications of this bill. By Congressional fiat alone the 9/11 first responders are now being investigated against the terror watch list. What would be stopping Congress from adding such provisions to the process for unemployment, student loans, or Social Security with a similar lack of appeal?

              The terror watch list, as I outlined in a previous reply to you, is compiled based on “reasonable suspicion” as opposed to probable cause. Legally speaking reasonable suspicion is a much lower bar than probable cause and is much easier to meet. Additionally the watch list does not vet the information it is provided as per the FBI’s website, does not have any means of outside appeal relying solely on internal review, or disclose any of its processes to the American public. To check people against a list that itself does not comply with due process, exists in total secrecy, and deprive any means of redress or appeal undermines the fundamental promise of the Bill of Rights. For Congress to get away with declaring the Ground Zero heroes must be investigated by Congressional fiat instead of through the processes of the courts makes it much easier for them to justify applying the same thing to any other forms of federal assistance.

      • Ryan, if someone is applying for a program, like this one, the government does not need “probable cause” to take simple steps to ascertain whether or not the individual qualifies for the government program.

        • The reasoning for including the provision is ridiculous and doesn’t pass any kind of civil rights smell test. For one it is unreasonable to assume any of the people who worked on ground zero could possibly be terrorists. For two it is subjecting the 9/11 workers to investigation against a secret list which uses a much lower legal standard of reasonable suspicion as opposed to probable cause.

          What makes it worse is the lack of any kind of appeal process in the provision for the decision. Considering the number of cases where people have been searched because they shared the same name as someone else on the watch list a 9/11 first responder could be denied necessary medical aid with no recourse or means of appeal. Other government programs that require screening have processes allowing the applicant to dispute the findings of the screening process. This provision spits in the face of basic American civil rights both in letter and spirit. There is no due process, presumption of innocence, or chance to redress grievances anywhere in this bill for the 9/11 workers.

  5. I’m wondering if the writers for Pagan+Politics have any guidelines that in any way approach the length and detail of the guidelines for those who submit comments?

    I would suggest that the folks at Pagan+Politics put some thought into the process by which the main contributions are produced. Some sort of editorial system is what I am suggesting. You could take turns being editors, probably two at a time would be a good idea. All submissions would first go to the acting editors, who would be expected to not only do some basic checks for accuracy and sourcing, but also make some serious attempt to help each other develop good writing styles.

    Some simple questions to ask of any given submission would be:
    (1) Is the piece genuinely informative, or is it purely opinion?
    (2) If the piece is purely (or primarily) opinion, are the opinions expressed rationally? Is there a genuine effort being made to convince? Does the writer make any effort to allow for different points of view? Is the piece simply rehashed talking points from FOX News or Rachel Maddow?
    (3) If the piece if informative, is the information expressed in a way that is readily understandable? Are sources given, and if so are they good ones? Are the basic facts verifiable?
    (4) Does the piece engage in unjustifiable sensationalism? Look out for: “witch hunts”, “fascism”, “racism”, “mccarthyism”, “threat to the constitution”, “threat to basic freedoms”, etc.
    (5) If one or more groups or individuals are the target of criticism and/or accusations, are these expressed in a reasonable way? Is any attempt made to be fair?

  6. The genius of “terrorism” is that anybody or all of us could, maybe, in a pinch, if pushed, be a “terrorist.”

    Especially since there is no commonly accepted, widely used definition of the term. Might be this. Could be that. How about what they did there? And, look out, if they really get devious, those Reptoids could shapeshift into our very guises! OMG! My snowpea patch might be podding with body snatchers as I wrote this comment! Fear! Fire! Foe! Terrorists!

    Here, if your name is on a list of those who get watched because someone, sometime, somewhere, put their name on that list, you might be a “terrorist.” At least, “terrorist” enough so that you don’t get this or that benefit–even if you worked at the 9/11 rescue/recovery. Which, by nearly every common sense standard, would indicate that you were no terrorist.

    But your name, troublingly, is on that list.

    And what’s more convincing? Deeds? Or names on a list?

    Frankly, I’d rather contend with stuff like this while watching a movie than IRL. IRL, there’s no way out and no final credits. O! Arrrggghh! I was wrong! The snowpeas pods hatched into hungry little Zeta Reticulan brain-o-poids….My name was on their list…

    I welcome with obedience the glorious arrival of our Grey Overlords!