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Beast of the Month - February 2003
John Ashcroft, Kreepy Orwellian Attorney General
"I yam an anti-Christ..."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
George Orwell, 1984
Imagine for a moment it is September 10, 2001, and you are visiting The Konformist website. You see an image of a globe, with a pyramid behind it. At the top of the pyramid is the Eye of Horus, shining a ray of light looking over the entire globe, with the Latin phrase "Scienta Est Potentia" ("Knowledge Is Power") as a slogan. This kreepy occult symbol is for something called "Total Information Awareness" - run by an office within DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency.) TIA is a $200 million per year project described by its head to "break down the stovepipes" that separate commercial and government databases, combing and combining records to citizens' credit card purchases, travel itineraries, telephone calls, email, medical histories and financial information.
If you dismissed this as either a ludicrous prank or a crackpot claim, your glib response could be excused. After all, it would sound completely ridiculous, an attempt to so overtly mimic Orwell and the most manic New World Order plots as to not even be remotely plausible. Besides, even if the government did have such a project, they wouldn't present it out in the open, and certainly not in a way seemingly designed to imitate the most paranoid of conspiracy theories. Indeed, if The Konformist had received information about such a project, it probably would've been presented as a joke, because it would seem just too ridiculous to believe.
Unfortunately, such a scenario is no longer merely implausible: it is reality. Perhaps there is no greater sign of the depths that American society has sunk since 9-11 than to look at TIA, which was indeed advertised on DARPA's own website as described above.
Actually, the reality was even worse: after all, in the scenario given, unmentioned is the fact that the head of this already sinister TIA project was none other than John Poindexter, the former National Security Advisor under Ronald Reagan convicted of five felony counts of lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra. ("Tia" is Spanish for aunt, inspiring Jeff Elkins of LewRockwell.com to refer to Poindexter as "The Man from Auntie.") While in his position under the Reagan team, the National Security Council came up with the modest proposal known as REX-84, a nifty idea thought up by the ever-patriotic Ollie North to declare a state of emergency and lock up political dissidents (up to 400,000) in concentration camps.
That Team Shrub has already taken an inherently kreepy idea and chosen the one man arguably most unfit to lead it is more than a mere indictment of the Bush junta: it indicates a test of the American people. After all, we've already established they can overtly steal an election: the curious case of TIA indicates an attempt to see our response to an even more overt police state. Based on the mass apathy to this disturbing government project, one can declare the test to be a smashing success from their point of view.
Curiously, Poindexter (along with Ollie North) evaded jail time due to the overturning of his convictions by an appellate court, which ruled he was indicted with the help of Iran-Contra testimony he gave under immunity. The soft-on-crime liberal judges who made that ruling? One of them was David Sentelle, the former aide to Jesse Helms, the ultra-right Senator from North Carolina. Another was Laurence Silberman, a right-wing Reagan appointee. Both men were involved in the Peckergate fiasco: they were the men who appointed the conflict-of-interest plagued Ken Starr as the prosecutor in that case. (Silberman would later order Secret Service agents to testify in the Starr inquisition, a violation of all historical precedents involving a group whose job is to protect the president, not spy on him.) Silberman, curiously enough, was also involved with an important case this November: part of the secretive US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, they issued their first ruling in their history of twenty-five years, gutting Watergate-inspired laws to limit government wiretaps. The only lawyer to speak before the appeals court was Theodore Olson, the US Solicitor General, the lawyer for Shrub in the 2000 election swindle, a major player in the Peckergate scandal in his own right, and a founder of the reactionary Federalist Society. Given all this, the tight linkage between Iran-Contra, Peckergate, the Dubya Votescam and the post-911 rise of a Police State becomes pretty apparent, and suddenly Hillary doesn't seem too far off with her talk of a "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy."
Still, with all due respect for Poindexter (who incidentally, as noted by Matt Smith in a SF Weekly column, lives with his wife, Linda, at 10 Barrington Fare, in Rockville, MD 20850, and who, at least until recently, had the phone number of 301-424-6613, for those who want to inform him of the potentially sinister side of government collecting information on individuals) as well as Sentelle and Silberman, none are the best representation of the rise of an Orwellian police state under the BushMob. That award would have to go Attorney General John Ashcroft, The Konformist Beast of the Month.
Back in 2001, there was a lot of concern among civil libertarians about the appointment of Ashcroft, a right-wing religious zealot (his church, the Assemblies of God, declares that social dancing carries a "great moral risk" and preaches on its own website intolerance to non-Christians) who was unpopular enough in Missouri to lose to a dead guy in the November 2000 Senate race. There was a fear that he'd use his position to promote an extremely slanted position on issues involving sex, privacy and civil rights. Of particular note was his position on abortion, homosexuality and school desegregation. And incidentally, with all the outrage heaped on Trent Lott for his support of people and groups out to solve "all these problems," Ashcroft himself had spoken before Bob Jones University, a college with a history of racial and religious bigotry. Ashcroft also praised the magazine Southern Partisian, published by the segregationist Council of Conservative Citizens, which is still based in Missouri. Perhaps more disturbing for a man in the office of Attorney General, he met secretly with a CCC leader about the status of another CCC member indicted for plotting to murder an FBI agent.
For all the deserved mistrust of Ashcroft, however, a cynic couldn't help wonder what the big fuss was. After all, as bad as no doubt Ashcroft appeared to potentially be, after eight years of Janet Reno, how much worse could Ashcroft really get?
For once, the cynics were wrong: Ashcroft really has been much much worse. Never mind Reno (or Ed Meese, for that matter) - John Ashcroft, hands down, is the most frightening man or woman to ever head the DOJ. And unlike the critics expected with Ashcroft, his scariness is not merely based on a cultural war of moral prudishness (though his covering up of the statute of the "Spirit of Justice" revealing a nipple - at a cost of over $8,000 to taxpayers - shows he still has that in him) but on contempt for basic concepts like individual rights and civil liberties.
First, let's give some credit where it is due: unlike his predecessor, so far - at least from what we know - Ashcroft has yet to incinerate anyone to death. Of course, the reason why he hasn't is because he's been too busy burning the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Further, the "at least from what we know" comment above isn't a mere smart aleck remark. Simply put, we don't know what has happened to hundreds of detainees, who the US government hasn't even released the identities of to the public.
The first signs of big-time trouble under the Ashcroft reign appeared in June of 2001, when two federal prisoners (first Timothy McVeigh and later Juan Raul Garza) were executed, the first federal prisoners since 1963. Granted, little Timmy isn't the most sympathetic character in opposition to the death penalty (at least according to the official story, as the claim of McVeigh's alleged guilt in the OK Bombing becomes more dubious the closer one examines it.) Which, of course, was precisely the point of choosing him as federal inmate number one to be killed. That the last legalized killing happened in the year of the JFK Assassination is telling: with the murder of Kennedy, an era of a covert Secret Team and its murder in the shadows ruled for nearly forty years. With the swindle of the Presidency and the 9-11 Reichstag book-ending 2001, the Secret Team has returned as an overt killing machine in the year federal executions have become reintroduced.
Besides executing prisoners (a hobby that Shrub gleefully picked up during six years as governor of Texas) Ashcroft, Bush and co. have racked up an impressive record of contempt for Constitutional rights. Besides TIA, here are some of the greatest hits:
* As mentioned before, the roundup of more than a thousand mainly Middle Eastern men, some of them detained indefinitely and in secret.
* Defendants held under secret military tribunals are denied the right to appeal to any US state or federal court, or any foreign court or international tribunal, a gross violation of the right to the writ of habeas corpus. The tribunals have been granted powers to order executions: the executions may be enforced on an agreement of only two of the three judges.
* The easing of restrictions on the FBI which limit spying on political organizations, churches and other groups in the United States, safeguards against the crooked COINTELPRO operations under the cross-dressing J. Edgar Hoover. No longer would the FBI be required to show that spying was related to stopping criminal activity.
* The authorization of eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations of those held in custody.
And then there's the biggest of the big: the advocation, promotion and enforcement of the so-called USA Patriot Act on 2001. Ashcroft pushed for the law five days after 9-11, one of the more shameless examples of exploiting the tragedy for maximum political effect. Among the Patriot Act's most insidious elements: increased powers to trace financial transactions (though they've yet to utilize those in place to investigate suspicious financial chicanery on Wall Street that is evidence of 9-11 pre-knowledge), increased powers to detain and expel immigrants and foreign visitors, stripping immigrants and others of speech rights by labeling foreign dissident movements as "terrorists" (a label which they have, are and will designate arbitrarily, and was a key part of Ollie North's REX-84), increasing Internet and phone surveillance (which already was at a dangerous level to civil liberties thanks to the kreepy government projects Echelon and Carnivore), allowing "sneak and peak" warrants that subjects remain unaware of, authorization of "roving" wiretaps (which eliminate the need of warrants for specific phones), and removing restrictions on CIA spying in the United States.
When the package of laws was introduced five days after 9-11, Aschroft demanded they be passed immediately. The bill became law forty days later. Democratic Party leaders would later whine that they were "forced" due to intense political pressure to approve the bill. The fact that it passed 98-1 in the Senate (with only Democrat Russ Feingold bravely opposing) proves at best they are a party controlled corruptly by sniveling cowards. Their continuous bootlicking of Dubya and Ashcroft only underscores their lack of spine: Representative Ron Paul, one of only three Republicans to oppose the bill, has stated the bill wasn't even printed before the vote for it, and only a handful of staffers even had the opportunity to look at it. That it was passed without deliberation or debate is an indictment of the entire legislative branch.
Still, there is something to their charge of intense pressure. Perhaps the most telling quote came from Ashcroft himself, who, on the day before the sixtieth anniversary of Pearl Harbor, declared before the Senate: "To those who pit Americans against immigrants and citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends." In otherwords, in Orwellian non-logic, to oppose an Orwellian bill that attacks basic American values is an act of treason.
Curiously, the only attack on the Constitution not backed by Ashcroft and co. is on the Second Amendment, even while backing increasingly rabid laws restricting civil liberties. The New York Times reported in December 2001 that Ashcroft stopped the FBI from looking at background-check information on suspects detained in connection with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) data had been used on 186 of the 1,200 detained suspects, two of which had been approved to buy guns. While one can debate the legitimacy of the NICS database and how it threatens gun rights, the fact is the evidence was there, already agreed upon by law, and thus needed no other law passage to be utilized. This only underscores the cynical nature of their attacks on civil liberties, to only exploit 9-11 for political convenience without any regards for actual public safety.
Not so surprisingly, while Ashcroft has been demanding that Americans increasingly give up their own privacy, the Bush Team has insisted on their own expansionary supposed right to secrecy. Besides that which is listed above, they have suppressed the release of formerly classified papers (most of which, coincidentally, comes from the Reagan-Bush era and would likely implicate Dubya's daddy.) Even more interesting is the secrecy behind Donkey Dick Cheney's so-called Energy Task Force, which coincidentally pushed for the interests of oil, gas and nuclear power (sources, coincidentally, which Halliburton, Cheney's former company, is heavily invested in - not to mention other members of the ShrubMob.) Donkey Dick and Shrub claimed that they didn't need to release information to Congress, the General Accounting Office or the public on these meeting that shaped and created public policy. The argument takes the secrecy behind Tricky Dick Nixon's gang of CREEPS to an even lower level. Perversely, a lawsuit filed by the GAO demanding the release of information surrounding these meetings was dismissed in December.
Only days before the bizarre ruling in the GAO lawsuit, the Supreme Court announced it would investigate whether Miranda Rights can be curtailed in the name of terrorism. The case involved a non-terrorist farmworker who was shot five times by police (he was left blind and paralyzed thanks to the incident) who both denied him medical treatment and failed to inform him of his Miranda Rights during a lengthy questioning. (The farmworker was never charged with any crime.) The Court, packed with members appointed during the Reagan-Bush years, seemed quite sympathetic to the police in this case under the excuse of fighting terrorism.
That bleeding farmworkers could be denied medical treatment and information of their rights while Donkey Dick abuses his illegally obtained power under the excuse of "executive privilege" underscores the depth of non-logic that poses for conventional wisdom right now. The demand of curtailing liberties of citizens while shrouding one's own reign is a primary component of dictatorships, and the behavior after 9-11 clearly echoes what Hitler and his cohorts did after Reichstag. This is no hyperbole, and the fact that the Shrubistas are mimicking what is widely viewed as a staged affair to manufacture the police state in Germany is pretty telling. So is the fact that, even after sixteen months, the Bush Team has stalled and avoided any investigation of the events leading up to 9-11.
We could go on an on about the dangers of the BushMob and Ashcroft, but the following quote says it all: "This proposed policy raises obvious concerns about Americans' privacy, in addition to tampering with the competitive advantage that our U.S. software companies currently enjoy in the field of encryption technology. Not only would Big Brother be looming over the shoulders of international cyber-surfers, but the administration threatens to render our state-of-the-art computer software engineers obsolete and unemployed."
The quote comes from John Ashcroft in 1997, on proposed surveillance of the Internet by the Klinton Administration that he has now vastly exceeded. He further stated the following:
There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?
The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state's interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens' Bill of Rights.
For once, John Ashcroft was telling the truth.
In any case, we salute John Ashcroft as Beast of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, John!!!
High Court Ponders Police Questioning
MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press
December 5, 2002
Beware of Total Information Awareness
January 20, 2003
The Rise of the National Security State: FEMA and the NSC
Diana Reynolds, Covert Action Information Bulletin, #33, Winter 1990
The Man From Auntie
November 19, 2002
Camps for Citizens: Ashcroft's Hellish Vision, Attorney general shows himself as a menace to liberty
Jonathan Turley, Los Angeles Times
August 14, 2002
Internment Camps and Authoritarian US Fast Becoming Reality
John Ashcroft and the neo-Confederates
Dec. 16, 2002
Total Information Awareness Demonstration for Poindexter
December 3, 2002
Feds Open 'Total' Tech Spy System
August 7, 2002
Post Office Box 24825
Los Angeles, California 90024-0825
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