Guest Post by Alex Newman
With estimates suggesting more than 800 people have died from the ongoing Ebola outbreak sweeping across West Africa, concerns are spreading in the United States about how federal and state authorities would react if — or when — a life-threatening virus such as Ebola begins spreading domestically.
Global responses to the outbreak are also stirring fears. Considering the militarization of swine flu preparations five years ago, there is plenty of cause for alarm, experts say. Some analysts and commentators have even warned that the stage is being set for medical tyranny as illegal immigrants flood across the border and an American infected with Ebola comes to the U.S. for treatment.
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is also making waves with its controversial global preparations. Already, the planetary outfit claims to be “coordinating” a $100 million planetary response with its member governments. “The situation in West Africa is of international concern and must receive urgent priority for decisive action at national and international levels,” argued WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, telling African governments that the outbreak had outstripped their capacity to respond and that self-styled “global health authorities” would need to be involved.
The director general, who was just in West Africa meeting with officials in the affected countries, praised them for their “commitment” to tackling the virus — which the Wall Street Journal reported was “demonstrated this week with new measures such as deploying soldiers to quarantine stricken neighborhoods in Sierra Leone.” “This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response,” Chan was quoted as telling the assembled African presidents, warning of “a security threat to response teams when fear and misunderstanding turn to anger, hostility, or violence.”
While the Ebola outbreak has been largely centered in the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, fears are growing about a potential global epidemic as the virus spreads. With illegal immigrants flooding across the U.S. border, it is hardly far-fetched to suppose that the disease will eventually reach American shores, too. Already, dozens of illegal immigrants from the three African countries suffering the most severe Ebola outbreaks have been apprehended crossing the U.S. border with Mexico. So what would — or could — American authorities do? The answers have more than a few analysts warning of potential government abuse.
On July 31, responding to news about the spread of Ebola, Obama modified a George W. Bush-era “executive order” signed in 2003. That unconstitutional decree was supposedly aimed at “providing for the apprehension, detention, or conditional release of individuals to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of suspected communicable diseases.” Under that scheme, the federal government would be allowed to detain people suspected of harboring a broad list of diseases including cholera, diphtheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, yellow fever, SARS, Ebola, and more.
The order signed by Obama last week modified one subsection of Bush’s original executive order. In essence, it drastically widens the net in terms of Americans who could be detained. Under Bush, subsection B dealt only with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. Obama’s amendment allows the feds to detain anyone who displays signs of “diseases that are associated with fever and signs and symptoms of pneumonia or other respiratory illness” that might cause a pandemic or lead to “mortality or serious morbidity if not properly controlled.” Only the flu is exempt.
Obama’s executive order references section 361 of the Public Health Service Act. On its website, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claimed that statute, originally passed in 1944, “clearly established the federal government’s quarantine authority for the first time.” The Constitution never established it. Indeed, critics say the statute represents a blatantly unconstitutional power grab that is totalitarian in scope. For instance, the scheme purports to allow the federal government to “apprehend” and “detain” individuals suspected of infection for “such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary.”
In other words, a bureaucrat could deprive a U.S. citizen of his unalienable rights — for as long as said bureaucrat considers necessary — on the mere suspicion that the person being detained has been in contact with some disease. Contrast the purported federal authorities under the statute with the plain language in the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which outright prohibits the deprivation of liberty without due process of law — a timeless and essential principle enshrined in the Magna Carta almost 800 years ago. State constitutions across America recognize those fundamental rights as well.
The federal government, though, apparently does not. Among other schemes, the CDC operates a vast network of “quarantine centers” stretching from Anchorage in Alaska to Miami in South Florida that could someday hold massive numbers of Americans against their will — merely on orders from the president. The federal agency even purports to possess the authority to quarantine “well persons” who “do not show symptoms” if it claims they “may have been exposed” to a communicable disease such as Ebola. (It also owns a “patent” on one strain of the virus, a fact that has perplexed analysts in recent days.)
Even the military could become involved. In fact, in 2009 amid the wildly overblown swine-flu hysteria, the Obama administration was even preparing for potentially deploying the military on U.S. soil. “When directed by the President, DoD [the Department of Defense] will provide support to civil authorities in the event of a civil disturbance,” noted a document entitled “Department of Defense Implementation Plan for Pandemic Influenza” by the assistant secretary of defense. “DoD will augment civilian law enforcement efforts to restore and maintain order.”
At the state level, thanks to plenty of federal bribes, the situation could be even more draconian. Consider, for instance, the so-called “Model State Emergency Health Powers Act.” Developed by the CDC in collaboration with partners such as the UN WHO, the widely criticized emergency medical regime has been implemented to varying degrees in the vast majority of states.
Among other schemes, the law purports to give public health officials the authority to mandate vaccines and enforce involuntary quarantines in the event of an emergency declaration. It would also force people to submit to medical exams and treatment decreed by authorities against their will, violate patient privacy, attack private-property rights, threaten medical professionals, mobilize troops to enforce government decrees, ration everything from food and gasoline to firearms, and much more.
“I believe — and believe it should be evident to you — that this model plan, if enacted throughout the states, would ... eliminate our freedom to choose our medical care and health treatment and potentially eliminate a broader range of our basic civil liberties,” observed Sue Blevins, the president of the Institute for Health Freedom, in an analysis for the Heritage Foundation when the scheme was being foisted on states after the September 11 attacks. “It is our duty in the public policy community to help educate, inform, and alert both our state officials and state-based think tank leaders to the challenge to our freedoms and liberties this extreme model legislation will have.”
The widely respected Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, meanwhile, warned that the legislation “could turn governors into dictators.”
Americans hoping that the courts might step in to protect their rights in the event of medical tyranny will likely be disappointed, according to experts. “Judges will not stand in the way of emergency actions taken to protect the public from a clear and present danger, and if they do, the state appeals court will overturn their rulings in a matter of hours,” explained Louisiana State University director of the program in law, science, and public health, Edward Richards, and Dr. Katherine Rathbun. “The history of judicial restraint on emergency powers is one of blind obedience to civil and military authority.”
CDC boss Thomas Frieden claimed recently that a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States was “not in the cards.” One of the reasons for that, he suggested, is that the federal agency has amassed broad powers in case disease does strike. “We have quarantine stations at all the major ports of entry,” Frieden told reporters. Another reason why the CDC and various medical experts have argued that Ebola may not represent a major threat to America is that it is supposedly only transferred through direct contact with bodily fluids. However, at least one study cited by analysts and published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that it can actually be transmitted through airborne droplets as well.
Critics of the administration’s actions have also suggested that the U.S. government was taking dangerous steps in terms of potentially importing the virus — especially by bringing infected patients into the United States for treatment when they could have been treated in Africa. “The madness of Ebola is only matched by the madness of America," wrote talk-radio titan Michael Savage, who also has a Ph.D. in epidemiology, in a piece for WND, suggesting that calls for vaccinating whole nations with an untested Ebola vaccine may be coming soon.
“Common sense would dictate you isolate and avoid contact with patients, because in this case the disease is often fatal,” continued Savage. “And yet, the morons who are running America are bringing infected patients to America, allegedly to treat them, but we all know it is an untreatable disease. It can only be managed. The entire story of bringing these Ebola patients from West Africa to America stinks to high Heaven.”
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), meanwhile, has been expressing concerns about the ongoing flood of potentially infected illegal immigrants pouring across the Southern border. “The influx of families and unaccompanied children at the border poses many risks, including grave public health threats,” Gingrey told the CDC in a letter last month. “As a physician for over 30 years, I am well aware of the dangers infectious diseases pose.... Reports of illegal migrants carrying deadly diseases such as swine flu, dengue fever, Ebola virus and tuberculosis are particularly concerning.” Dozens of illegal immigrants from the three affected countries have already been apprehended.
There can be no doubt that Ebola is a dangerous and frightening disease — it kills an estimated 90 percent of its victims, and there is currently no cure. However, unconstitutional government scheming allegedly designed to deal with the virus and other communicable diseases ought to be at least as alarming to Americans. Indeed, the potential for abuse, tyranny, and wanton constitutional violations under a declared “emergency” is hard to emphasize strongly enough. Machinations by the dictator-dominated UN could be even worse.
Unrestrained governments, which murdered hundreds of millions of innocent people in the last century alone, as well as epidemics, have both proven to be among the deadliest threats to humanity. For the sake of life and liberty, though, Americans must ensure that their officials do not trample on the Constitution under the guise of a real, manufactured, or imagined emergency — whether it be an Ebola outbreak or anything else. There are plenty of ways to protect public health without resorting to tyranny. Securing the Southern border would be a good first step.
Photo of ambulance carrying one of the American Ebola victims to a hospital in Atlanta: AP ImagesAlex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is currently based in Europe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ALEXNEWMAN_JOU.