Sunday, May 20, 2007

More Ashcroft Mythbusting

"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 . . . enemies and pause to . . . friends." appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Dec. 6, 2001.

Seriously…Let’s hold the phone for a sec. Gonzales is a dangerous Constitutional criminal and needs to be held accountable – and those who touted him for the Supreme Court should be chained in the public square and pelted with overripe produce – but let’s not forget who blazed the trail.

I have not forgotten that in the wake of that horrible day five years ago that stripping away those pesky civil liberties Americans have traditionally held was the default position for the Ashcroft-led Department of Justice. Trampling the Constitution was the first thing they thought to do in their quest to combat terrorism, not the last.

Ashcroft was the chief merchant of fear and he sold that bill of goods to a frightened, weak-minded populace that had actually bought into the myth of American Exceptionalism. His insidious efforts furthered the powers of the FBI to infiltrate every aspect of your life and mine. And he was the first to equate patriotism with marching in lockstep with the authoritarian agenda. Dissenters were unpatriotic and un-American. He planted those poisonous seeds of division, and pitted American against American for political gain. Don't forget his perfidy as you rush to lionize.

It was under Ashcroft that groups like the Quaker's were "infiltrated" - shades of COINTELPRO - by law enforcement agents for the purpose of collecting information on Americans who exercised their Constitutional prerogative to dissent - which pretty much obviates the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

He was the sleazy bastard who first cast aspersions on your patriotism because you had the temerity to value our Constitution and raise questions about the unlawful methods they were so eager to apply.

Let’s take a stroll down Memory Lane before we commission a bust of Ashcroft for the lobby of the ACLU local, whaddya say?

Everyone knows about the Patriot Act, and the abuses that have flowed from that assault on civil liberties, but doesn't anyone else remember TIA?

TIA stands for Total Information Awareness. It was a data-mining operation designed to allow the federal government to track all credit card purchases, listen in on telephone conversations, read your emails, check your medical records and track your movements.

No warrant required. Hell, they didn’t even really need to have a suspicion. They could do it just for giggles. TIA basically set the Fourth Amendment alight. In case you don’t have your copy of the Constitution handy (and why the hell don’t you?) or you can’t recite the Ten Commandments, er, the Bill of Rights from memory (and why the hell can’t you?) let me refresh your memory on just exactly what the Fourth Amendment guarantees:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

And remember TIPS? The spy-on-the-neighbors-and-report-those-Thought-Criminals!!! program that he tried to get attached to the legislation authorizing the creation of the Department of Homeland Security? (That effort failed)

TIPS stood for Terrorism Information and Prevention System (it morphed into the John Doe protection act while you weren’t paying attention to the mendacious authoritarian bastards on the right).

TIPS was designed to encourage citizens to snoop for the government. Mail carriers, UPS drivers, teachers, utility installers – people whose jobs involve interacting with the public, would have received training on *how to spot and report suspicious behavior.* (Like receiving mail from the ACLU or the SPLC, or having an anti-war bumper sticker, presumably.)

Military tribunals, and immigrant detentions in the absence of crime, indefinite detention without due process; these were more than the products of his right-wing authoritarian MO, they were where he went automatically. The Attorney General of the United States default setting was to ignore the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Let’s remember the assaults on liberty that were perpetrated at this mans hand before we enshrine him as a Guardian of Liberty.

Put in perspective just who it is that is looking so good by comparison, and get properly pissed already!

[Cross-posted from the blog you should be reading, Watching Those We Chose]

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