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Restore the House Committee on Internal Security

By Charles A. Morse
web posted August 12, 2002

A re-established House Committee on Internal Security would be able to conduct hearings and craft appropriate legislation to assist the FBI and other federal agencies in their targeting of domestic terrorism and subversion. The present approach by the Bush Administration, the creation of a massive and permanent Department of Homeland Security without congressional oversight, endangers individual liberties in the long run. Alternatively, a congressional committee, with input from the public through their representatives in Congress, would be able to deal with specific threats by enacting and enforcing temporary and targeted measures. Congress could adjust or rescind such measures as the threat changes or subsides. It should also be noted that the Constitution specifically charges Congress, not the executive branch, with the making of laws.

Congressional committees have served remarkably well in the past regarding the surgical targeting of specific and identified domestic subversion while leaving the rights of the rest of us unmolested. A committee would be obligated to investigate subversion in the same manner as local law enforcement investigates crime. Only the individual or group suspected of involvement in a crime is investigated and, once sufficient evidence is gathered, apprehended. Congressional hearings, with witnesses granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony, allows for the identification of terrorists and those who support them financially and by other means. Once the conspirators are identified, Congress could then craft legislation to, for example, grant the FBI special powers for surveillance, or the INS powers to swiftly deport non-citizen subversives, or the Treasury Department power to impound funds.

The 1940 Smith Act clearly and accurately defines subversion:

  1. To knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government;
  2. With intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any government in the United States, to print, publish, edit, issue, circulate, sell, distribute, or publicly display any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence;
  3. To organize or help to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any government in the United States by force or violence; or to be or become a member of, or affiliate with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof.
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer
Palmer

Swift government action in the past has defeated subversive conspiracies without interrupting the sovereign rights of law-abiding citizens. In 1920, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer conducted a sweep and swift deportation of non-citizen anarchists who were plotting to overthrow the government by means of violence. The Anarchists had attempted to assassinate several government officials including Palmer himself and had attempted to subvert American unions, which they were planning on using in a coordinated attempt to paralyze the American economy as a means of achieving their diabolical political goals.

Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy has been vilified by those who sympathized with the Communist conspiracy that he played a major role in breaking. As chairman of a congressional committee, and fulfilling his sworn duty as a congressman, McCarthy held hearings, largely in secret to protect reputations, to determine the extent in which communists had infiltrated government agencies. While his detractors shrieked about civil liberties, the truth is that after about 3,000 testimonies, only 135 people were cited for contempt and only a handful of these served short prison sentences. Civil liberties were maintained, leftist propaganda notwithstanding, and the communist threat was stymied.

The present threat is different in that the radical Islamists have few if any agents or sympathizers in the government. Having said this, many of the same old leftist lawyers and advocacy groups are predictably championing the cause of al-Qaida and using the same bogus arguments as in the past. The Islamists, nevertheless, pose the same subversive threat to our society as their anarchist and communist predecessors. They have already murdered thousands of American citizens, they maintain a network of cells and front organizations, and they are supported by enemies overseas. Congressional hearings and action are the best means, indeed the constitutional means of dealing with this very real threat without impinging on the freedoms of the rest of us.

Chuck Morse is a radio program host at Salem Radio/WROL in Boston.

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