8. THE BILL OF RIGHTS HAD A CLOSE CALL IN 1990

An anti-crime bill was introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House in 1990 which, had it been enacted and signed into law, would have essentially nullified the Bill of Rights. Neither the Senate version, S. 2245, introduced by Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas), nor the House version, H.R. 4079, introduced by Representative Newt Gingrich, (R-Georgia), the minority whip, passed either chamber.

The Gramm-Gingrich bills both start out stating that the U.S. criminal justice system is failing to achieve the "basic objective of protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty." Both bills call for "A Declaration of National Drug and Crime Emergency."

The legislation stated: "Guided by the principles that energized and sustained the mobilization of World War II, and in order to remove violent criminals from the streets and meet the extraordinary threat that is posed to the nation by the trafficking of illegal drugs, the Congress declares the existence of a National Drug and Crime Emergency beginning on the date of enactment of the act and ending on the date that is 5 years after the day of enactment of this act." Both bills have provisions for utilizing tents and various others shelters, including unused military facilities, for the confinement of state and federal "violent criminals."

The bill prescribes mandatory incarceration, for at least five years, of "every person who is convicted in a federal court of a crime of violence against a person or a drug trafficking felony, other than simple possession." A crime of violence "has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another; or by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense." The bills also would suspend protection from unreasonable search and seizure, excessive fines, bail, or punishment and the right to be brought to trial.

Civil libertarians claim that a number of Executive Orders, issued by presidents since World War II, which would suspend civil rights and liberties, could take effect in the event of "any national security emergency situation that might confront the nation." It also appears that the president's signature would declare the "national security emergency" necessary to empower the Federal Emergency Management Agency "to take over government, suspend the Constitution and do what it wants." Oliver North, former National Security Council aide, revealed during the Iran-contra hearings, that plans had been formulated to suspend the Constitution.

While the legislation was not enacted during the 1990 session, observers fear that oppressive parts of the Gramm-Gingrich bills may be added to the omnibus anti-crime bill which is slowly working its way through Congress. Nonetheless, despite the extraordinary attack on the Bill of Rights, and despite the support of a number of Representatives and Senators, the oppressive legislation was not put on the national agenda by the mass media for discussion by the public. In fact, the widest, ongoing coverage of the progress of the two bills in 1990 was found in a controversial weekly publication called The Spotlight.

SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: ROSE ANN FUHRMAN

SOURCE: THE SPOTLIGHT, 300 Independence Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20003,
DATE: 8/6/90
TITLE: "Repressive Gingrich Bill: Dangerous Attack on Rights",
DATE: 10/15/90
TITLE: "Danger To Bill Of Rights"
AUTHOR: Mike Blair

COMMENTS: Mike Blair, author of both articles, said that to the best of his knowledge, "the subject of Congressman Gingrich's repressive legislation was not covered in the mass media at all." Blair warned that "The Gingrich bill, if enacted into law, would have a direct impact on America's Bill of Rights, thus, an impact on all Americans. The general public certainly has a right to know what their elected representatives are doing, particularly when their actions may infringe upon America's civil and human rights. In this case, we are concerned with a repressive bill that could lead to legislation that could suspend such basic rights as freedom of assembly, due process of law, and even freedom of speech." He adds "Obviously, limited coverage of the subject of infringements upon our freedom as Americans benefits those who wish to suppress those freedoms. In this case, Gingrich and other members of Congress who are supporting this legislation benefit from keeping the public in the dark. Otherwise, I would suspect their offices would be flooded with mail and telephone calls from outraged Americans." As noted in the following synopsis, while neither of the Gramm-Gingrich bills passed last year, there is concern that parts of the bills will be added to the omnibus anti-crime bill which is still in Congress. Author Blair says that he's watching for new co-sponsors, action in committees of Congress, etc.