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
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,
TITLE: "Repressive Gingrich Bill: Dangerous Attack on Rights",
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.