It seems Attorney General John Ashcroft is concerned that too many civil liberties remain intact after the passage of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. To remedy the situation, Ashcroft’s office has drafted the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003. Tellingly, the very existence of the draft was denied for several months, though whispers abounded in D.C. about “Patriot Act II,” according to the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization whose reputation for fairness and accuracy has earned them the title of “a journalistic utopia” from The New Yorker.

The Center obtained a copy of the proposed Enhancement Act of 2003 and cunningly asked Mark Corallo, a deputy director in the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, for information without revealing that they had a copy. According to the Center, Corallo responded that the government was merely looking at ways of “revising the Patriot Act.” When told that the Center had obtained a copy of the actual draft, Corallo said “I have never heard of this.”

But his boss had, and said so, if only after the Center posted the draft on its Web site. Barbara Comstock, director of public affairs in the Justice Department, said that the document was merely “an early discussion draft” and had “not been sent to either the vice president or the speaker of the house.”

However, PBS media superstar Bill Moyers obtained copies of the bill addressed to both the speaker and the vice president from “OLP,” the Office of Legal Policy, along with a Jan. 10 memo reading, “Attached for your review and comment is a draft legislative proposal entitled the ‘Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003.’”

Upon reviewing the draft, Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole told the Center, “It’s troubling that they have gotten this far along and they’ve been telling people there is nothing in the works.”

Is there any reason to deny the existence of the drafted Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003? Well, let’s take a look at just one of the draft’s provisions: Sec. 312 would nullify law enforcement consent decrees in place before 9/11 that were passed as a result of, and to prevent, police surveillance abuses.

If we were drawing up provisions landing direct blows on American citizens’ privacy rights, we’d probably want to keep it a secret, too.

•••

According to the Democrats, the nation has lost about 2.5 million jobs during Bush’s presidency. But Democrats may have to tweak their numbers if the Navy’s call for a glut of civilian morticians to enlist bears fruit.

Surely, when you graduated from that accredited mortuary school and became a licensed funeral director or embalmer, you had the sunny beaches of Spain, the quaint villas of Italy and the swamps of Guam in mind. And here’s your chance: the Navy is “looking for candidates Nationwide!!!!” (yes, their ad uses four exclamation points). That’s right, join the Navy, see the world, track down the corpses of fallen Marines and clean them up so they’re presentable enough to ship stateside.

The Navy denies that the job openings have anything to do with Bush’s war, which is scheduled to start any day now. The Navy also says it’s just a coincidence that the Pentagon has already ordered 77,000 body bags (plenty more than the 16,000 Bush’s dad ordered during his Gulf War).

Sadly, Dubya may be recruiting morticians he won’t need and buying body bags he won’t use. It has been reported that the Pentagon may reverse its decades-old philosophy of going to any length necessary to recover each and every one of its solders killed abroad. Instead, felled solders may be cremated on site to prevent the spread of chemical or biological agents expected to be used by Saddam.

Something makes us think that four exclamation points aren’t going to be enough to lure morticians into those killing fields.

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