By Michael I. Niman,
The government that seized power in a contested election,
crashed our economy, de-funded our schools and hospitals, gutted our
environmental regulations, sent our soldiers off to kill and die in a quagmire
of a war, and looted the federal treasury with a series of no-bid military
contracts to friends and tax cuts for the rich, now wants to finish off their
assault on the cornerstone of American society – our civil liberties.
But they’re acknowledging it’s a hard sell.
Back in the USSA
Since the draconian and oxymoronically named “Patriot Act” was passed by the House and Senate in the wake of the 9/11 attacks (thanks in part to the yes-zombie votes of “liberals” Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer), the Bush administration has had a hard sell convincing the American people that the emerging Soviet style police state is somehow All-American.
To date, three states and 151 American cities, towns and
counties have passed resolutions condemning the Patriot Act, promising, to
varying degrees, not to cooperate with unconstitutional federal Patriot Act
investigations in their communities. The
revolt is nonpartisan, but all American, with Republicans joining in and
sometimes even leading the fight against The Patriot Act. It’s as if a form of
political amnesia has set in, with politicians forgetting how, in the political
Tsunami after the 9/11 attacks, they voted to enact a 340 page piece of
legislation that few of them read, and even fewer of them understood. With flags
waving over the smoldering ruins of the
The Patriot Act expanded the federal government’s ability
to spy on American citizens by tapping our phones, examining our credit card
records, and scrutinizing our reading lists by examining our bookstore
purchases, library borrowing records and internet surfing habits. One provision
of the bill gave Attorney General John Ashcroft the power to unilaterally
certify non-citizens as “terrorist suspects,” who could be detained
indefinitely without charges and without the government presenting any evidence
or holding a judicial review of the case. One of the few voices in opposition to
the act in 2001 was New York Representative Jerrold Nadler, who warned, “The
Attorney General under this provision has carte blanch [to order] a suspect to
stay in jail forever.” The bill
also allowed for “secret” detentions, in essence nullifying the habeas
corpus (show us the body) provisions of American law. Since the act passed,
Ashcroft’s Justice Department has ordered scores of people
secretly detained without charges as “material witnesses.”
The Department of Justice under Ashcroft has also prosecuted people in
secret military tribunals where defendants are routinely denied independent
counsel or communication with family members – in effect making a mockery of
the American criminal justice system which was formerly a model for the world.
Freddy Vs. John
The only saving grace of the Patriot Act is that the most odious provisions are set to expire in 2005. John Ashcroft, however, doesn’t just want to breathe new life into the Patriot Act, extending it, much like the new detention policy it heralded, indefinitely – he wants to expand it with a new enhanced Patriot Act II (The Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003). Like the sequel to a B grade Horror film, Patriot II will shred what remains of the constitution like a Patriot Missile tearing into a library live on Fox News.
Specifically, Patriot II will challenge the protections of the First (Freedom of Speech and Assembly), Fourth (Freedom from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures), Fifth (right to confront witnesses and right to a fair and speedy trial), Sixth (no excessive bail) and Fourteenth (Right to due process and equal protection) amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Ashcroft’s bill will enhance the FBI’s ability to spy on citizens without having to secure permission from a judge. Hence, the FBI will be able to target political opponents and then go fishing for charges. The original Patriot Act allowed the FBI to spy on domestic political opposition groups. The expanded powers sought under Patriot II will allow the FBI to continue this practice, but be exempt from having to explain themselves to a judge, hence anti-corporate globalization protesters, anti-war protesters, environmentalists, as well as anti-abortion and pro-choice protesters and gun owners advocacy groups could all find themselves under FBI surveillance. In short, anyone patriotically exercising their duty to protest could be subject to FBI surveillance – a reality that will thwart democratic participation in our political discourse.
Where the Patriot Act allowed the government to detain
non-citizens indefinitely, Patriot II allows Ashcroft’s Justice Department to
strip Americans of their US citizenship, and hence, of their constitutional
rights. Under this provision, the
ante for speaking out against the Bush junta will suddenly rise to astronomical
levels, with ordinary Americans potentially facing indefinite detention without
trial. This is the ultimate
nightmare of Ashcroft’s
The Ashcroft Record – Beat by a Dead Man
The entire Ashcroft assault on American values was quite predictable given John Ashcroft’s political background. The voters of Missouri eventually tired of Ashcroft and decided they would rather be represented by a dead man than by John Ashcroft, voting for Mel Carnahan for Senator over John Ashcroft after the former was killed in a small plane crash two weeks before the election. George W. Bush, however, quickly nominated the jilted Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General – a nomination to which a quisling Democratic Party controlled Senate ultimately acquiesced.
Prior to his
ascension to the throne of Attorney General, Ashcroft, as governor of
Racial bias, whether in executions or any other aspect of
American life, doesn’t seem to be a problem for John Ashcroft.
It’s no surprise that John Ashcroft came to power after
losing his own election, riding the coat tails of a stolen election.
Ashcroft has a history of thwarting the democratic process.
Church is State
As Attorney General, Ashcroft is also responsible for
maintaining the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state – a
suspicious task for an ardent supporter of bringing official sectarian prayer
into public schools. Ashcroft, in
fact, has made a mockery of this responsibility by turning the Justice
Department into the most obvious violator of this separation, with the Attorney
General leading daily sectarian prayer and bible study meetings on Justice
Department property. The
participants are Ashcroft’s underlings, raising the specter of religious
harassment in a work environment where a supervisor promotes his own religion.
The federal law that the Justice Department is supposed to be enforcing
mandates that workplace supervisors not create an environment where employees
perceive any coercion to practice a particular religion, or any religion for
that matter. In 1999, while
speaking at the commencement exercise of fundamentalist
Ashcroft claims to be pro-family. However, in a society riddled by broken homes, where we should be seeking family wherever we can find it, Ashcroft is an outspoken opponent of Gay Marriage, domestic partnership, and any other legal convention that recognizes gay families. He’s also an outspoken opponent of family planning, having supported the “Human Life Act” – a piece of anti-abortion legislation so virulent that it could also, according to critics, be interpreted to outlaw birth control pills and the I.U.D. While in Ashcroft’s world, zygotes and fetuses have legal rights, children do not. Despite a 68% drop in juvenile crime during the 1990s, Ashcroft repeatedly sponsored legislation requiring states to try children 14 years old and older, as adults, and to create new mandatory sentences for juvenile offenders – in effect replacing school with prison and all but guaranteeing that troubled children grow up into violent adults.
Ashcroft has always had a strange view of power and who
should wield it. As a senator he
supported eliminating the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to
regulate corporate mergers in the communications industry despite the anti-trust
issues involved with corporations such as Clear Channel, a large Republican
Party donor, monopolizing local broadcast markets.
Yet, as Missouri Attorney General, he filed a bizarre anti-trust suit
against the National Organization of Women in an unsuccessful attempt to thwart
an organized boycott of states that wouldn’t ratify the Equal Rights
Amendment. He believes in giving
police state powers to the FBI to snoop on political opponents of the Bush
administration and their corporate overlords, yet he opposes a ban on assault
weapons (in Ashcroft’s
This is another problem with John Ashcroft.
Much of what he does and says makes little logical sense.
Of all of daddy’s friends who landed at the George Junior White House,
Ashcroft, whether he’s draping lady liberty’s statue in velour or singing
“Let the Eagles Soar” on national TV, is the weirdest.
His actions often defy logic, but they always adhere to a draconian
political dogma. It’s this agenda
that Ashcroft is hell-bent on imposing on
Over his head in hot water and with both of his Patriot
Bills on the line, John Ashcroft is taking
his trip on the road, hitting 18 cities in what The Christian Science Monitor calls, “Ashcroft on tour, and
unplugged.” Unplugged and running
out of juice as it may be, this Big Brother Road Show is coming to
Various local groups are organizing demonstrations to peacefully greet
John Ashcroft when he comes to
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