SEATTLE -- Toxic heavy metals, chemicals and radioactive wastes are being recycled as fertilizer and spread over farmers' fields nationwide -- and there is no federal law requiring that they be listed as ingredients, The Seattle Times reported.
The issue came to light in the central Washington town of Quincy, population 4,000, when Mayor Patty Martin led an investigation by local farmers concerned about poor yields and sickly cattle.
"It's really unbelievable what's happening, but it's true," Martin told the newspaper, which published a series about the practice on Thursday and Friday.
Until now, the state Department of Agriculture sampled fertilizers only to see if they contained advertised levels of beneficial substances.
But the state is currently testing a cross-section of fertilizer products to see if they threaten crops, livestock, or people, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Friday.
"The key question is what toxins are, as it were, along for the ride in fertilizers," said Tom Fitzsimmons, director of the state Department of Ecology.
Use of industrial waste as a fertilizer ingredient is a growing national phenomenon, The Times reported.
In Gore, Okla., a uranium-processing plant gets rid of low-level radioactive waste by licensing it as a liquid fertilizer and spraying it over 9,000 acres of grazing land.
At Camas, Wash., lead-laced waste from a pulp mill is hauled to farms and spread over crops destined for livestock feed.
In Moxee City, Wash., dark powder from two Oregon steel mills is poured from rail cars into silos at Bay Zinc Co. under a federal hazardous waste storage permit. Then it is emptied from the silo for use as fertilizer. The newspaper called the powder a toxic byproduct of steel-making but did not identify it.
"When it goes into our silo, it's a hazardous waste," said Bay Zinc's president, Dick Camp. "When it comes out of the silo, it's no longer regulated. The exact same material."
Federal and state governments encourage the recycling, which saves money for industry and conserves space in hazardous waste landfills.
The substances found in recycled fertilizers include cadmium, lead, arsenic, radioactive materials and dioxins, the Times reported. The wastes come from incineration of medical and municipal wastes, and from heavy industries including mining, smelting, cement kilns and wood products.
Mixed and handled correctly, some industrial wastes can help crops grow, but beneficial materials such as nitrogen and magnesium often are accompanied by dangerous heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, the Times said.
"Nowhere in the country has a law that says if certain levels of heavy metals are exceeded, it can't be a fertilizer," said Ali Kashani, who directs fertilizer regulation in Washington state.
Unlike many other industrialized nations, the United States does not regulate fertilizers. That makes it virtually impossible to figure out how much fertilizer contains recycled hazardous wastes. And laws in most states, including Washington, are far from stringent.
Canada's limit for heavy metals such as lead and cadmium in fertilizer is 10 to 90 times lower than the U.S. limit for metals in sewage sludge, while the United States has no limit for metals in fertilizer, the newspaper said.
"This is a definite problem," said Richard Leoppert, a soil scientist at Texas A&M University and author of several published papers on toxic elements in fertilizers. "The public needs to know."
Another political stereotype bites the dust. This time, it's the one that says Republicans favor tough law-enforcement techniques, including snooping on domestic dissidents, while Democrats are reliable lovers of civil liberties. It appears instead that the executive branch of the federal government invariably advocates more power for itself, regardless of the party controlling it.
When it comes to wiretapping, "this administration has broken all records," says Robert Ellis Smith, editor of Privacy Journal. "There was a slight decline in 1995 for the first time since 1992, but the total was still the second highest in history."
Recently, the rationale most likely to persuade politicians to grant draconian powers to federal law enforcement has been terrorism. In prior eras, the rational was child kidnapping. According to David Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colo., legendary FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover drummed up support for his agency by falsely alleging that an unprecedented wave of child kidnapping was in progress. Now the terrorism rationale is yielding first place to manipulation of greater public concern about drugs and gambling.
"The trend is driven by the drug wars in the New York City tri-state area," says Smith. "Without that area there's actually been a decrease in wiretap requests. But overall, there's been a large increase."
The increase easily could have been even larger. When the Clinton administration submitted its Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996, which was in part a response to the Oklahoma City bombing, it contained clauses giving the FBI extensive new authority for "roving warrants" -- warrants to tap successive phones used by a targeted individual without obtaining a separate warrant for each phone -- and even for warrantless taps based on "exigent circumstances."
That these did not become law is due in substantial part to the efforts of a conservative Republican who also is a former federal prosecutor, Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia. Informed by Insight that he is a hero to privacy advocates, Barr says: "Ask the FBI -- they don't think I'm a hero! But the fact is, because I was a prosecutor I know how wide the existing federal wiretap authority is and how it can be abused."
Barr tells Insight he uses three criteria to judge federal investigators' requests for new wiretapping authority. These are:
Has the government made out a case that it needs the increased authority for which it is asking?
Is the government asking only for what it needs?
Do the proposed changes include adequate safeguards?
In the proposed 1996 antiterrorism measure, according to Barr, the government failed all three prongs of this fork test.
Says Barr: "What I've said to the administration is, if there are chinks in the armor, if there are shortfalls in the wiretapping authority you have, then show us what the new minimum is and what safeguards you will put in place to keep that from being abused. But don't just use the fact that some shortfall might exist as a pretext to ask for a comprehensive wish list, especially one without safeguards."
At least some sunlight is shed on the sheer numbers of law-enforcement wiretaps, thanks to a legal requirement that the federal and state governments annually report their wiretap requests to the Administrative Office of the Courts. This requirement is found in the so-called "federal wiretap law" or, more accurately, Title III of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968, as amended by the Electronic Communications Act of 1986.
Wiretap requests are addressed to federal trial judges by law-enforcement authorities. In terms of constitutional theory, this means the executive branch must seek permission from the judicial branch. That dependence on an independent, coequal, branch of government acts as an at least marginal check against government snooping. On the other hand, Smith notes, "almost all wiretap requests are granted."
But threats to privacy from law enforcement do not come only from wiretaps. Tim Lynch, a constitutional rights analyst at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, sees a growing threat to civil liberties in the government's increasing tendency to "deputize private industry to assist in investigations." As usual, says Lynch, the government used a popular cause to gain more surveillance powers. In this case, it was organized crime: In 1970, the Justice Department made -- and Congress accepted, in enacting the Bank Secrecy Act -- the argument that it would be ever so much easier to control organized crime if banks were required to report regularly to the police about their customers' activities. All transactions in excess of $10,000 must be reported, and all checks must be photocopied or microfilmed.
Phone company records are targeted, too: Lynch points to a landmark 1976 Supreme Court decision upholding the FBI's demand that the New York Telephone Co. provide the bureau with telephone numbers dialed by suspects. "The court analyzed the case as though the privacy interests at stake were those of the phone company rather than those of its customers," he explains.
In the nineties, when fiber optics and cellular phones came along, the feds were equal to the occasion, says Lynch. "They persuaded Congress to pass the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which forces telephone companies to make their networks more accessible to police wiretaps."
Part of the underlying confusion may be between acts of crime and acts of war. Lynch points to a spreading tendency to try to involve the military in domestic law enforcement. At the same time, according to the Cato Institute's 1995 Handbook for Congress, the U.. government tends to treat terrorism as a law-enforcement problem, even when it is state-sponsored. Part of the solution may be to get certain basics straight: U.S. citizens suspected of wrongdoing are entitled to the due-process guarantees of the Constitution, which the police -- but not the military -- are expected to uphold; foreign governments suspected of terrorism against U.S. citizens are not so entitled.
Privacy advocates also are concerned about growing government control over encryption technology. According to Lisa S. Dean, director of the Center for Governance at the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative Washington organization, the Clinton administration has been active since its inception in trying to ensure that citizens cannot hide their computer phone or fax data from the government. "First it was the 'clipper-chip' bill, which failed all three times it was introduced in the House," says Dean. "To simplify a bit, this was basically a 'key-escrow' scheme, in which the government would have been able to get hold of the 'key' to your encrypted data, without you even knowing about it."
The administration's current legislative vehicle for giving the government a key to everyone's data, says Dean, is called the Encryption Data Security Act of 1997. This bill, she notes, "would force businesses and individuals to use only government-licensed encryption programs for their overseas communications. The tapping, by the way, would be completely undetectable. You would never know when they're listening or when they're not."
The Encryption Data Security Act is the administration's bill, says Dean, "but it's being circulated in the Senate by Majority Leader Trent Lott. The fact that it has leadership support really worries us."
Isn't this kind of tapping capability necessary to aid government in combating terrorism, organized crime and the drug trade? "Drug dealers are not going to use government-licensed encryption," says Dean. "It's the gun-control issue all over again. Upstanding citizens are going to be forced to accept undetectable government tapping, while criminals are going to get alternative encryption on the black market."
The Free Congress Foundation and the ACLU stand side by side on this issue. "The Clinton-Gore administration's policies on encryption and on digital phone technology will have the effect of hardwiring Big Brother into the information age," declares Donald Haines, the ACLU's national legislative counsel on privacy and cyberspace.
"This is the most anti-privacy administration since Nixon's" continued Haines, "and maybe further back. That's a widely shared view, regardless of party."
Predictably, critics of the Communist Party and the Soviet government, including legitimately elected leaders of independence-minded republics, were denounced as "terrorists" and "criminals" under the new law and targeted by the KGB. Furthermore, notes British investigative journalist James Adams in his book The New Spies, the May 1991 law was followed with a December 1991 decree "which crated a new superministry of internal affairs and public security, something last heard of in Stalin's time."
The Soviet regime was hardly the only or the last government to make use of secret decrees, vaguely defined legal terms, and covert campaigns to discredit, harass, and ultimately eliminate its domestic opposition. Indeed, aspects of the Soviet approach can be seen in recent "anti-terrorist" measures undertaken by the Clinton Administration -- and, as we will see, those measures may be an outgrowth of U.S.-Soviet initiatives that began in the late 1980s.
A May 13th Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on terrorism disclosed the existence of a previously unknown decree, Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 39, which establishes a framework for anti- and counter-terrorism efforts. According to FBI director Louis Freeh, PDD 39 "sets out the responsibilities not only of the FBI, but emphasizes most importantly [inter-agency] coordination, which is required among all federal agencies to discharge the objectives of the federal policy with respect to terrorism."
In addition, Freeh explained that the FBI's new counter-terrorism center "contains representatives of 16 other federal agencies and ... is dedicated for the first time to a central collection [or] analytical point in the federal government for threats, particularly those regarding domestic terrorism." (Emphasis added.) In structure and function, what Freeh described is quite similar to the Russian "superministry of internal affairs and public security" created in December 1991.
As Freeh pointed out, the chief focus of that new "superministry" is domestic terrorism, and in his remarks to the Senate committee, he narrowed the focus even further to "various individuals, as well as organizations, some having an ideology which suspects government and particularly the federal government, of world-order conspiracies -- individuals who, for various reasons, have organized themselves against the United States." Although he acknowledged that federal action against such groups requires "some indication of criminal activity," Freeh emphasized that one significant marker of criminal intent is the expression of "ideologies inconsistent with principles of federal [sic] government" -- in short, right-wing extremism.
"Throughout my careers as an FBI agent and a federal prosecutor, I have maintained a firm belief in cooperative law enforcement." Director Freeh declared in a 1994 speech before the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. "Given the common and increasing crime problems facing the United States, central and eastern Europe, and the countries of the former Soviet Union, my belief has been strengthened."
According to Freeh, with the Cold War receding into the past, "it may be possible for all of the former Cold War adversaries to now divert some of their Cold War intelligence budgets toward priority law enforcement and crime reduction projects. All of the former Cold War adversaries should also consider reprogramming personnel and technologies to the fight against criminals and terrorists. Without new and enhanced levels of international law enforcement cooperation, each country will pay a terrible price if it tries to fight crime largely by itself."
Accordingly, under Freeh's leadership, the FBI, which was once the dreaded enemy of the Soviet KGB, has embraced the KGB's successor organizations as "partners" in combating the global menace of terrorism and organized crime.
Not only do the FBI and KGB confront a common international terrorist threat -- albeit one which the KGB still protects and sponsors -- but they also face a common domestic terrorist enemy: "Right-wing extremism." In March 1995, Boris Yeltsin issued the "Edict on Combating Fascism and Other Forms of Political Extremism," which outlawed political "extremism," criminalized the expression of opinions that "fuel social, racial, ethnic, and religious hatred," and ordered the suppression of "printed matter, film, photographic, audio, and video material designed to propagate fascism, and incite social, racial, ethnic, or religious hatred." The decree also authorized security forces to prevent public gatherings, meetings, or demonstrations by "extremist" groups -- "extremist" as defined by the government, of course.
Might similar powers someday be vested in the KGB's "partners" in U.S. law enforcement, in the interest of fighting "right-wing extremism?" Furthermore, an essay by an influential counter-terrorism consultant suggests that a full-blown Soviet-style campaign against the "radical right" may be forthcoming -- or may even be in its initial stages.
Konrad Kellen is a former analyst for the RAND Corporation and an associate editor of the TVI Report (Terrorism, Violence, and Insurgency). It was RAND that facilitated the meetings of the U.S.-Soviet Task Force to Prevent Terrorism in 1989, and, according to Task Force co-chairs Marks and Beliaev, RAND analyst Brian Jenkins -- who now edits TVI Report -- "played a key role on the Task Force ......." Thus, it is of some moment that Kellen used a post-Oklahoma City edition of TVI to outline a Soviet-style crackdown on America's "Radical Right.":
Predictably, Kellen identified the "enemy domestic" as "Rightist terrorism," asserting that "there does not seem to be any major threat from the Left." The chief problem in dealing with "Rightist terrorism" is in the fact that it enjoys the support of "many open and hidden sympathizers .... To combat or diminish that sympathy, which is the water in which the terrorist fish swims, is most difficult in a democracy where everyone can express their ideas and try to gain converts. This situation exposes democracies to great risk."
Accordingly, any effective campaign against terrorism, Kellen asserted, Must de-legitimize the political Right by convincing the public that "the hallmark of the extremist patriot is his extremism, not his patriotism. He is literally an 'enemy of the people' and of his country. Unless he is recognized and treated as such no effective way to deal with domestic terrorism is possible."
Kellen predicted that once the task of de-legitimizing the Right has been accomplished, it will become possible to "attack the concentric circles of which terrorism consists -- from criminal actor at the center who kills, all the way to befuddled sympathizers at the periphery." To accomplish this objective, Kellen laid out a step-by-step campaign of "pro-active offense" against the political Right.
First, the federal government must escalate its infiltration and surveillance of "extremist" groups: "Intelligence operations that probe extremist groups like the Militias -- whether they have committed terrorist acts or not -- must be increased perhaps tenfold; all constitutional restrictions on such probes must be lifted; and the EEIs (Essential Elements of Information) must be broadened to include every aspect of their organization, officially held and privately expressed views, finances, armaments, training, and connections. The right of privacy for members of the Militia must, and can be, suspended under the Constitution, because terrorism is an 'enemy domestic'; Militias have no more right to privacy than drug cartels, foreign agents, or common thieves."
Kellen also insisted that the federal government must create a "special government branch ... to collect, analyze, and publicly divulge, all that these groups and their individual members say at meetings, write in pamphlets, even say to each other on the telephone." Once the campaign has been institutionalized, "A psywar offensive can, and should, be waged against them by publicly revealing the supporting fringe of probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of sympathetic admirers, and by explaining that certain groups are, regardless of what they claim, 'politically criminal' groups bent on destroying American democratic institutions."
The "psywar offensive" would be coupled with an expansion of sedition laws, which would then "be applied to the spreaders of hate who use the radio or other media, including public forums .... Without taking action against public hate mongers, terrorism cannot be eradicated. Such actions against the hate mongers must be possible under the Constitution. Congressmen who insist that all hate mongering is 'free speech' protected by the First Amendment, and that nothing can, or should be done about it ... are shirking their democratic duty."
Furthermore, Kellen contended, "The proposed new Federal anti-terrorist organization should be free to take action against all domestic groups involved in any type of hate mongering." This would essentially replicate Yeltsin's "anti-fascism" decree.
As a prelude to this campaign, noted Kellen, it is necessary to prepare the public mind by keeping public attention riveted upon the threat of terrorism. He actually lamented the fact that public concern over terrorism is difficult to sustain. "This apathy can only be combated by a public 'terrorist watch' that keeps people well informed about the dangers emanating from terrorist groups or individuals." Kellen declared. Note carefully that this "terrorist watch" would cultivate public anxiety by demonizing right-wing groups and individuals not just on the basis of what they do or are accused of doing, but on what they write, say, and believe.
Recent crackdowns on militia groups in Arizona, Washington, Georgia, and West Virginia illustrate that the federal government has radically increased its surveillance and infiltration of militias -- a fact proudly acknowledged by Louis Freeh in his May 13th testimony. And the new FBI-CIA counter-terrorism center could conceivably grow into the federal anti-terrorist organization envisioned by Kellen.
The extent to which federal law enforcement implements the policies out-lined by Kellen will depend upon how much they have learned from their KGB "partners" in law enforcement.
WILLIAM NORMAN GRIGG
THE NEW AMERICAN
July 7, 1997
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