Monday, November 25, 2002

Today George Bush will sign the Homeland Security Bill, which contains seven controversial provisions that Democrats felt were intended as favors to corporate pals of the Republican party. None of the papers I looked at said what all of the provisions were, so I went to Joe Lieberman's website and figured it out. I'm not a lawyer, but this is my best understanding of what the provisions will do, and I think it's kind of educational.

I put them in order from really quite scary to just sort of dumb.

1. Federal Advisory Committee Act
Unlike the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, FBI, State Department and National Security Agency, advisory committees to the Department of Homeland Security will be allowed to meet in total secret with no public knowledge

The Department of Homeland Security can designate certain technologies as "qualified anti-terrorism technologies." Companies selling these technologies will be protected from lawsuits related to an act of terrorism, no matter how negligently--or even willfully--the company acts.

3. Childhood Vaccine Liability Shield
Takes lawsuits about vaccine additives out of the courts, interrupting ongoing legislation, and potentially leaving families completely without compensation. Does not affect bioterrorism vaccines at all, but specifically targets claims against childhood vaccines, including cases involving vaccines which have recently been linked to rising rates of autism in children.

4. Offshore Companies
Lets the government do business with corporations that shift their headquarters outside of the US in order to avoid taxes.

5. Airport Screening Company Immunity
Protects passenger and baggage screening companies from lawsuits related to September 11th, even though the Senate already specifically rejected the idea of protceting them, due to ongoing concerns about their role leading up to September 11th.

6. Texas A&M
Will create a university-based homeland security research center. Based on the fifteen incredibly narrowly definined criteria outlined in the bill, it will obviously be at Texas A & M. Texas A & M is in Tom DeLay's district.

7. Transportation Security Regulations
Basically seems to make it harder for the Transportation Security Agency to pass new safety regulations. Why? I have no idea.


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