|By Mr. Colin G. Gallagher, RPCV (adsl-64-170-2-162.dsl.mtry01.pacbell.net - 188.8.131.52) on Saturday, October 18, 2003 - 9:56 pm: Edit Post|
Mr. Bridgeland, of Homeland Security, states that it is hoped that "tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands" will eventually join the new program(s) as "Volunteers for Prosperity." This would include doctors, nurses, and other professionals sorely needed... in the Peace Corps.
Clearly, the White House has no aspirations or will to make Peace Corps a stronger organization. Looking at the unilateral foreign policy choices, the foot-dragging on consensus building, and the speed at which the Administration resolves to demonize, attack, or alienate countries whose ideologies (and available underground resources) are richer and more distinct than our own, it is evident that the goals of Peace Corps are not synchronous with the goals of the Administration.
The current Administration (as a whole) has grudgingly, more or less while being dragged along (kicking and screaming), been cajoled into supporting legislation that would support Peace Corps. The President, on the other hand, has proposed and requested significant funding to support the new legislation for Peace Corps, but hasn't the political will to stump for it, so the appropriations are in danger of falling by the wayside.
The lack of effort to make Peace Corps appropriations happen is in no small part because Peace Corps Volunteers (and Peace Corps, as an independent agency) are not quite as within the control of the extremist Administration as would be the so-called "Volunteers" which would populate the "Volunteers for Prosperity." Bridgeland's hordes of "hundreds of thousands" of such "Volunteers," should such a nightmare occur, would only draw professionals away from the Peace Corps (whose goals are improving, by the looks of recent legislative action) and place them in an organization whose goals are at best, questionable.
The members of the current Administration collectively, and arguably Bush individually, understand that their attempts to ensnare Peace Corps within the provisions of Section 908(a) of the Patriot Act and Section 3(f)(iii) of the Freedom Corps Executive Order (Presidential Executive Order No. 13254) will ultimately be defeated when the Senate votes to approve S.925. When the House and Senate versions of the recent Peace Corps legislation are reconciled, the unavoidable result will be that Peace Corps will not be able to be utilized by the pervasive extremist elements within the Administration, who unwittingly (but willingly) attempted to overtly and covertly utilize Peace Corps for purposes completely departing from the stated goals of the Peace Corps Act. This means that ultimately, the Administration will try to recruit American professionals into another entity which is more within the influence of the unilateralist philosophies of many who are currently in the White House. (In point of fact, this recruiting is already occurring, albeit in a more overt fashion -- in our high schools, as the "poverty draft" claims increasing numbers of disadvantaged American youth to be sent off as pawns in the "War on Terror.")
It is evermore critical, therefore, that we as Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (and friends, family, and supporters of Peace Corps) demand of our elected representatives in Congress that they do the following three things:
1. SUPPORT the full appropriation for Peace Corps as originally requested by the President for Fiscal Year 2004,
2. SUPPORT and FAVOR the language of H.R. 1950 in reconciling the differences between H.R. 1950 and S.925, and push to APPROVE S.925 immediately,
3. PUBLICLY OPPOSE Bridgeland's recent proposals for "tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands" of the so-called "Volunteers for Prosperity," as this would wrongly divert professionals from joining the Peace Corps and would populate an organization that at best, has a questionable mission and a thinly-hidden, non-compassionate agenda.
Please COPY these three items (above) and SEND them as a REQUEST to your elected representatives by linking to http://www.capwiz.com/y/dbq/officials - Once you have entered your zip code and have "clicked into" the text entry section, PASTE these three items into your message. This takes only a minute of your time.
For readers who did not see the original discussion on Peace Corps Online regarding the potential impacts to Peace Corps from the Patriot Act and the Freedom Corps Executive Order, the following is provided:
Section 3(f)(iii) of the draft Executive Order for the creation of the USA Freedom Corps reads as follows:
"Upon the request of the Chair, and to the extent permitted by law, the heads of executive branch departments and agencies shall provide the Council with relevant information."
In this case, the Chair is the President of the United States, and the members of the Council include the Attorney General, the Director of the U.S. Peace Corps, and other executive branch heads.
This would not provide an overly serious problem for Peace Corps, were it not for Section 908(a) of the USA Patriot Act. This section of the USA Patriot Act states the following:
"The Attorney General shall, in consultation with the Director of Central Intelligence, carry out a program to provide appropriate training to... officials of the Federal Government who are not ordinarily engaged in the collection, dissemination, and use of foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, and officials of State and local governments who encounter or may encounter foreign intelligence in the performance of their duties, to assist such officials in identification and utilization of foreign intelligence information."
Clearly, this legislation provides a mechanism where, in combination with section 3(f)(iii) of the Executive Order ordering the creation of the USA Freedom Corps, intelligence information will be passed from Peace Corps to the Attorney General, and from there to the Central Intelligence Agency, by order of law.
In the President's 2003 Budget Initiatives for "Using 21st Century Technology to Secure the Homeland," an increase from zero dollars (2002) to 17 million dollars (2003) will be spent specifically to "assure _relevant information_ is conveyed to State and local officials" for defense purposes. This same language is seen in Section 3(f)(iii) of the USA Freedom Corps Executive Order: "...the heads of executive branch departments and agencies shall provide the Council with _relevant information._"
Is foreign intelligence information part of this "relevant information?" Regardless of the intent of the legislation and Executive Order, there is nothing to legally prevent "intelligence information" from falling into the category of "relevant information." Documents obtained under Freedom of Information Act requests from the NSA (National Security Agency) confirm that the definitions of "foreign intelligence" and "relevant information" as used by that agency are not mutually exclusive.
URGE CONGRESS TO DO ITS DUTY AND SUPPORT THE PEACE CORPS AND THE PEACE CORPS ACT!
Your children (and grandchildren) will thank you.
-- Mr. Colin G. Gallagher, RPCV
El Salvador (98-00)
Board Representative (Monterey Bay / Sta. Cruz)
NorCal Peace Corps Association