Thursday, December 22, 2005
Even State Government Tramples on Civil Liberties in Name of Homeland Security
The danger inherent in the government’s arrogant assertion that it has the power to trample American citizen’s civil liberties in the name of “homeland security” is illustrated by a seemingly minor incident that occurred in early 2004. An American citizen was threatened with arrest and imprisonment by a State of Florida law enforcement official simply for walking on a public beach in the Fort Lauderdale area because the State law enforcement officials were doing the federal government’s bidding in the name of “homeland security,” even though State law enforcement officials had no legal authority to do so. The following is an excerpt from the citizen’s rebuttal to the report issued by the State of Florida official who investigated the incident:
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
- Hermann Goering (1893-1946)
There can be no doubt that Capt. Schmidt’s so-called investigation and her Report were designed, from their inception, to clear the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Department of Law Enforcement [FDEP DLE] of any wrongdoing or unprofessional conduct. It is certainly easier for everyone involved in a minor incident involving a young man protesting the closure of a public beach to nonchalantly sweep it under the carpet.
However, the statements and conduct of Officer Jones and Lieutenant Bergholm, as well as the findings and conclusions of the Report, reveal an arrogant, contemptuous, and condescending attitude on the part of the law enforcement officials involved toward anyone who would have the temerity to question law enforcement authority or attempt to invoke their constitutional rights as United States citizens. In this instance, FDEP officials, from Officer Jones to FDEP attorneys in the General Counsel’s Office, have consistently been haughtily dismissive of Mr. [Citizen]’s concerns, and have attempted to disclaim any responsibility for the events of January 26, 2004 by invoking the totemic incantation that this was a “homeland security” matter, as if the mere mention of “homeland security” would be a talisman against anyone questioning the conduct of law enforcement officers. Not only were FDEP officials dismissive of Mr. [Citizen]’s concerns, some also tried to intimidate Mr. [Citizen] from seeking answers to his questions. For example, FDEP Senior Attorney Tracey Hartman blatantly attempted to obstruct and discourage Mr. [Citizen] from seeking public records by attempting to impose unlawful and unjustified fees and charges on Mr. [Citizen] as a condition to obtaining the records he requested.
Amazingly, the State of Florida has no written documentation concerning the United States Coast Guard’s (USCG) request for assistance to FDEP in enforcing a federal security zone on January 26, 2004 around Port Everglades. (Despite repeated FOIA requests by Mr. [Citizen] since January 26, 2004, USCG has failed to produce any records documenting or confirming the alleged USCG request for assistance to FDEP. Public records requests to the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), whom Lieut. Bergholm claimed was involved in coordinating local law enforcement response to the alleged request by USCG, were similarly unavailing. BSO claims to have no records concerning this matter.)
Consequently, there is no way of knowing to whom at FDEP the USCG submitted its request, whom at FDEP reviewed the request and authorized compliance with the request, and whether anyone at FDEP even considered whether state law enforcement officials were legally authorized by Florida law to enforce a federal security zone. Capt. Schmidt could not have cared less about finding the answers to these questions. From the little evidence that is available, it appears the FDEP officials involved simply assumed, without any question, that they were legally authorized because, after all, this is “homeland security.” In making this assumption, they were no doubt supported by what appears to be their institutional inclination that, as law enforcement officers, they are above the law, and may act at their whim, answering only to their paramilitary organizational leadership whose orders must not be questioned.
We now know that FDEP DLE did not have the legal right to enforce a federal security zone on January 26, 2004. Officer Jones was not legally authorized to arrest anyone for violating a federal security zone. Thus, on the morning of January 26, 2004, there was a armed man on the beach, with a uniform and a badge, who was harassing and intimidating people, threatening to arrest and imprison people, blatantly violating citizens’ constitutional rights, and curtailing their liberty. Officer Jones may have had a good faith belief that what he was doing was legal, but citizens’ liberties were aggressed upon nonetheless. In truth, on the morning of January 26, 2004, the only difference between Officer Jones and a criminal was which one of them had the gun and the badge.
The juxtaposition of "1984" and the current administration paints a frighteningly accurate picture of the political climate today. My skin crawls...Post a Comment