American Gestapo?

There’s another Paul Craig Roberts piece at counterpunch that sounds the alarm, so to speak.

A provision in the “PATRIOT Act” creates a new federal police force with the power to violate the Bill of Rights. You might think that this cannot be true, as you have not read about it in newspapers or heard it discussed by talking heads on TV.

The portion in question, SEC. 605. THE UNIFORMED DIVISION, UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE, reads in part:


There is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division'. Subject to the supervision of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall perform such duties as the Director, United States Secret Service…

In addition…

(b)(1) Under the direction of the Director of the Secret Service, members of the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division are authorized to–

(A) carry firearms;

(B) make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have Normalerweise sind Fruit slots sehr ubersichtlich in der Vergabe von Bonusfeatures, aber dieser Spielautomat hat tatsachlich ein paar kleine Uberraschungen im Petto. reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony; and

(C) perform such other functions and duties as are authorized by law.

Mr. Roberts’s reaction is nothing if not imaginative:

The obvious purpose of the act is to prevent demonstrations at Bush/Cheney events. However, nothing in the language limits the police powers from being used only in this way. Like every law in the US, this law also will be expansively interpreted and abused. It has dire implications for freedom of association and First Amendment rights.

We can take for granted that the new federal police will be used to suppress dissent and to break up

opposition. The Brownshirts are now arming themselves with a Gestapo.

So, the question before the house is: does the creation of a uniformed sub-set of the Secret Service signal the end of basic civil liberties in America? If so, why? If not, why not?

  • Mike

    A few thoughts…first, while this does appear to be rather radical, at second look it really isn’t. As any good political writer would do, Roberts doesn’t include the facts that might weaken his position. If you go and look at the actual legislation, what Roberts ambiguously describes as “a variety of jurisdictions” is actually generally limited to the District of Columbia with minor exceptions such as other foreign missions outside of D.C. in the U.S. (albeit only in extraordinary situations), presidential candidates, and visiting foreign heads of state. Out of all the jurisdictions listed, the only remotely troubling one is the one that Roberts lists; namely, the “special event of national significance.”

    In all honesty, I really don’t think this is even a new development. The Secret Service already has a Uniformed Division; they’re the guys dressed in black that you see walking around the White House with M-4s and MP5s. This might just redefine slightly their role and/or make them official (I’m not sure if the Uniformed Division was actually recognized by law prior to this). Regardless, this is not, as Roberts makes it out to be, a completely new police force created out of thin air.

    While it might seem stupid to have a Uniformed Division when, as Roberts points out, the Secret Service’s guys in suits are perfectly capable of protecting the President. That might have been true 20 years ago, but in this new age the protection quadrant has been extended outward beyond the strict boundaries of the White House. Any recent visitor to D.C. can tell you this. In order to better protect the President, it’s important to have an outer line of defense manned by uniformed officers, such as the Metro Police and Parks Services police. Wouldn’t it make sense to include some Secret Service officers in this mix, since they are the ones tasked with protecting the President and other VIPs in Washington. And in fact, if you do go to D.C., you’ll see that the outer security cordon is a mixture of Metro officers, Parks police, and Secret Service Uniformed Division.

    Bottom line: while this is something to keep an eye on (but that’s pretty much true of any federal law enforcement expansion) it does not by any means signal an end of civil liberties.

    (Sorry for the length of the post, by the way.)

  • Robert

    No apology needed…comments are always welcome (especially thoughtful ones).

    By the way, I don’t disagree with your assessment of the nature of the ‘new cops’.

  • tkc

    The libertarian side of me says that government power should be limited as to prevent abuse. We should not give government power and then hope it is not abused but that we should limit government’s power so that they cannot abuse it. But how far should we go? I do not take this to a 100% anarchist level. Life, liberty, and property should be protected. In my view, that a police power is being bestowed, doesn’t lead me to the conclusion that a new Gestapo is being made. Can this power be abused? Certainly. But an overzealous prosecutor could go after someone on political grounds and make that person’s life miserable. However, that is not an excuse to do away with prosecutors or not to hire new ones or to never expand upon prosecutorial powers. On the same line of reasoning, it is not an excuse to do away with police powers or to not grant them where they might be of use. Is it unreasonable to say that if a Uniformed Secret Service agent sees a crime taking place right in front of him should he not be able to arrest the suspect? I don’t think it is unreasonable. Police officers do this all the time and without warrants.
    Mr. Roberts needs to fill in the gap between police power and Gestapo tactics with something of substance in order to make his point. Right now, he just looks paranoid to me.

    So I’ll agree that it is worth watching to see that this police power is not abused, but I’d say that about most government power. Come back when you have something.

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