Ethics, Ethnics Both Under Fire – The Martial Plan

Are we headed toward martial law? Last week Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said in Detroit that he envisions a situation in which the public will demand internment camps for Arab Americans. If terrorists attack the U.S. for a second time and if “they come from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you can forget about civil rights,” he said.

Are we headed toward martial law? Last week Peter Kirsanow, a Bush appointee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, said in Detroit that he envisions a situation in which the public will demand internment camps for Arab Americans. If terrorists attack the U.S. for a second time and if “they come from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you can forget about civil rights,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration currently is in the midst of a charade over the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which states that the military cannot engage in domestic police functions. In recent years that restriction has proved to be more myth than anything else. As if to underscore that point, Alabama governor Don Siegelman announced last week that he was mobilizing 500 members of the Alabama National Guard to “serve in the homeland defense role within the United States.” And at the same time, the U.S. general in charge of the Northern Command, which oversees defense of the continental U.S., suggested that the military may come to have a larger role in policing the country against terrorism. The Bush administration has its attorneys looking to see whether the Posse Comitatus Act, which was adopted to get federal troops out of the South after the Civil War, should be changed. The act has little muscle and was breached repeatedly in the Waco siege. Military personnel and technology were used at Waco to train domestic-security agents, fly choppers, supervise the use of equipment, and go over final plans for the assault. Special Forces were used to train ATF agents before the Waco operations, and they were at Waco during the siege. National Guard troops from Alabama and Texas were used in the initial phases of Waco.

Confess Your Neighbors’ Sins
Rats in the Belfry

From the Vietnam War through the armed guerrilla wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, churches in the U.S. have been widely viewed as sanctuaries for protesters, not the place for ratting them out. But buried in President Bush’s domestic terrorism program is a suggestion that along with letter carriers, meter readers, and cable technicians, churches will play an important role in “a national reporting system that allows these workers, whose routines make them well positioned to recognize unusual events, to report suspicious activity.”

Bush himself, in an April speech in Knoxville, Tennessee, spoke of the need for a Citizen Corps and, as a step in that direction, urged citizens to gather around their religious institutions. “It means organizing a program in your church or your synagogue or your mosque,” he said, “to help hear the universal call of loving somebody just like you’d like to be loved yourself.”

The Citizens’ Preparedness Guide even lists “Places of Worship” in its table of contents and suggests that in addition to schools and other public places, churches could be useful in making “preparedness a part of [people’s] daily lives. . . . Places of Worship provide a valuable support network and an opportunity to share information about preparedness.” And adds, “Consider incorporating your place of worship into your Neighborhood Watch Programs.” It adds, “Hold meetings to discuss preparedness and distribute copies of this guide to your congregation.”

In the recent past, police and federal agents repeatedly have tried to infiltrate churches, but they have usually not succeeded. The idea of employing the church at the heart of an intelligence operation was startling to some members of the religious community reached by the Voice over the weekend. “I think that’s terrible,” said Reverend Elizabeth Braddon of Park Slope United Methodist Church. “With September 11 and since, our concern has been to offer protection to South Asian [and other] communities. . . . We would certainly not use our church community to target others.”

“We’re not here to spy on each other,” said David W. Dyson, pastor of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. Peter Laarman, senior minister of Judson Memorial, called the idea “a total violation of what the spirit of religious community should be.”

Immediately following 9-11, FBI agents began visiting mosques, and now mosques and other Muslim organizations of various types have come under close federal scrutiny. As for mosques becoming headquarters for this kind of spying, Abit Husein of the Islamic Society of Baltimore said, “They were talking about hiring one out of 10 Americans as a spy—that was the news. So, that was shocking, too. I mean, everybody can spy on anyone else—you never know if somebody is spying on you.”

Ghazi Khankan, director of interfaith affairs at the Islamic Center of Long Island, said, “I have a message to Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft, that the Muslim community is a self-policing community. The Islamic way of life and the Islamic teaching is opposed to acts of violence and terrorism as part of the religious teaching itself. . . . if we see someone is going to harm any human being or any property, it is my religious duty to stop that person.” Khankan added, “That does not mean that we would not cooperate with any legitimate authority or organization that are on the lookout, but for God’s sake, don’t focus on Muslims alone, be on the lookout in all houses of worship, not just mosques.”

But David Harris, executive director of American Jewish Committee, said it wouldn’t be wise to overreact negatively to Bush’s scheme. “I only have what I see in front of me, and at first glance it doesn’t necessarily have a sinister overtone to it. . . . I think that it could certainly be interpreted very benignly. . . . I mean people need to be alert, and that seems to be logical and sensible under the very unusual times we live in. It seems to be commonsensical.”

Joe Loconte, point man at the Heritage Foundation for the conservative political program aimed at having faith-based institutions deliver social-welfare services, contended that there is nothing wrong with using “congregations in a civil society,” adding, “Congregations are a natural source. It’s just a great collection of people in the urban context.” He pointed out that “congregations were the foot soldiers in the civil rights movement.”

Top Execs Land Safely Atop Wall Street Debris
The Great Cash of 2002

While the Crash of 2002 is being attributed to corporate officials misleading investors through slick accounting practices and outright lies, only a tiny slice of the top guns responsible for these dealings have been charged with civil or criminal offenses. In fact, many of them have walked away from the crash with hundreds of millions of dollars in salaries, forgiven loans, and other bundles of loot. Consider the disposition, so far, of six major crack-ups:

ENRON—Filed for Chapter 11 in December 2001. Numerous class-action civil suits. No civil or criminal charges. Execs: CEO Kenneth L. Lay resigned in January 2002 after pulling in $152.6 million during 2001. CFO Andrew Fastow was fired in October 2001 after scoring $4.2 million in 2001.

WORLDCOM—Filed a $107 billion bankruptcy over the weekend. The SEC has charged the company with defrauding investors by improperly accounting for $3.9 billion in expenses. Execs: CEO Bernard Ebbers quit April 30, 2002; his compensation last year was $34.5 million. Outstanding loans of $336 million forgiven. CFO Scott Sullivan was fired June 25, 2002; his compensation in 2000 stood at $11.3 million and is reported to be building a $15 million house in Florida.

GLOBAL CROSSING—Filed for bankruptcy with $12.4 billion in debt on January 28, 2002. Execs: Chairman Gary Winnick cashed out $734 million in stock since 1998. John Legere, who became CEO in October 2001, got $1.1 million in salary, $3 million in “severance” when he moved from a subsidiary to the parent company, and $3.5 million more in a signing bonus. A total of $15 million in compensation in the months leading up to bankruptcy; $10 million in forgiven loans. CFO Dan Cohrs, still employed, got $7.6 million for stock he sold, and $250,000 incentive pay to stay with the company.

QWEST—Currently $27 billion in debt and the subject of a federal criminal investigation. Execs: CEO Joseph Nacchio, sacked in June, made $217.3 million last year. He sold $248 million in stock during his tenure. CFO Robin Szeliga, removed from that job on July 8 but still executive vice president, got $2.2 million in compensation during 2001.

DYNEGY—SEC is investigating. No civil or criminal charges. Execs: CEO Chuck Watson, who resigned May 2002, got $6.5 million in 2001 and still is Dynegy’s largest stockholder. CFO Rob Doty, who resigned June 19, 2002, got $316,856 in salary and $1.3 million in bonuses in 2001—and may still receive $2.7 million in severance.

TYCO—CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski was indicted for allegedly evading New York state sales taxes on $13 million in paintings he bought last fall, as well as for allegedly tampering with evidence involving the paintings. Kozlowski quit in June amid allegations he had Tyco buy him a Manhattan apartment and Florida house. Execs : Kozlowski and CFO Mark Swartz secretly sold $500 million in Tyco stock while claiming publicly that they were holding their Tyco shares. SEC filings show that Kozlowski made a cool $300 million since 1993.

Additional research: Gabrielle Jackson, Cassandra Lewis, Joshua Hersh, Caroline Ragon

Author: James Ridgeway

News Service: The Village Voice


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