1) How the Patriot Act Compares to Hitler´s Ermächtigungsgesetz (Enabling Act)
On March 23, 1933, the newly elected members of the Reichstag met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler´s "Ermächtigungsgesetz". The "Enabling Act" was officially called the ´Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.´
Opponents to the bill argued that if it was passed, it would end democracy in Germany and establish a legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. To soften resistance to the passing of the Enabling Act, the Nazis secretly caused confusion in order to create an atmosphere in which the law seem necessary to restore order.
On February 27, 1933, Nazis burned the Reichstag building, and a seat of the German government, causing frenzy and outrage. They successfully blamed the fire on the Communists, and claimed it marked the beginning of a widespread terrorism and unrest threatening the safety of the German "Homeland." On the day of the vote, Nazi storm troopers gathered around the opera house chanting, "Full powers - or else! We want the bill - or fire and murder!"
The Nazis used the opportunity to arrest 4,000 communists. Not only did the Nazis use the incident as a propaganda against communists but they also arrested additional 40,000 members of the opposition. Consequently, the Nazis had achieved their objective of eliminating democracy and ensuring their majority in the parliament.
After the fire on February 28, 1933, president Hindenburg and Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permitted the suspension of civil liberties during national emergencies. Some examples of this Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State abrogated the following constitutional protections: Freedom of the press, free expression of opinion, individual property rights, right of assembly and association, right to privacy of postal and electronic communications, states´ rights of self-government, and protection against unlawful searches and seizures.
Before the vote, Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag in which he pledged to use restraint. He also promised to end unemployment and promote multilateral peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union.
In order to accomplish all this, Hitler said, he first needed the Enabling Act. Since this act would alter the German constitution, a two-thirds majority was necessary. Hitler needed 31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. The Center Party provided these votes after Hitler made a false promise to them. Four hundred and forty votes were registered for the Enabling Act, while a mere 84 votes were opposed – the social Democrats. In glory the Nazi Party stood to their feet and sang the Nazi anthem, the Hörst Wessel song. The German Democratic party had finally been eliminated, and Hitler’s dream for Nazi command became closer to reality.
The Enabling Act granted Hitler the power he craved and could use without objection from the Reichstag. Shortly after the passing of The Enabling Act all other political parties were dissolved. Trade unions were liquidated and opposition clergy were arrested. The Nazi party had, as Hitler said, become the state. By August 1934, Hitler became commander-in-chief of the armed forces. This was in addition to being President and Führer of the German Reich, to whom every individual in the armed forces pledged unconditional obedience. The Reichstag was no longer a place for debate, but rather a cheering squad in favor of whatever Hitler might say.
2) A 21st Century Comparison of The Enabling Act and The Patriot Act
Last September, German Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin pointed out that George Bush is using Iraq to distract the American public from his failed domestic policies. She capped her statement by reminding her audience: "That´s a popular method. Even Hitler did that." What was lost in the reactions to Ms. Daeubler-Gmelin´s comments was that she wasn´t comparing Bush to the Hitler of the late 1930s and early 1940s; but to the Hitler of the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Most Americans have forgotten that Hitler came to power legally. He and the Nazi Party were elected democratically in a time of great national turmoil and crisis. They themselves had done much to cause the turmoil, of course, but that´s what makes the Bush comparison so compelling.
Similar to the Bush administration, the Nazis were funded and ultimately ushered into power by wealthy industrialists looking for government favors in the form of tax breaks, big subsidies, and laws to weaken the rights of workers. When the Reichstag (Germany´s Parliament building) was set ablaze in 1933 (probably by Nazis), the Nazis framed their political rivals for it. In the general panic that followed, the German Parliament was purged of all left-wing representatives who might be soft on communists and foreigners, and the few who remained then VOTED to grant Chancellor Hitler dictatorial powers. A long, hideous nightmare had begun.
History teaches us that it is shockingly easy to separate reasonable and intelligent people from their rights. A legally elected leader and party can easily manipulate national events to whip up fear, crucify scapegoats, gag dissenters, and convince the masses that their liberties must be suspended (temporarily, of course) in the name of restoring order. Consider the following two statements, and see if you can identify the authors.
Statement Number One: "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."
Statement Number Two: "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."
The first statement is a quote from Hitler´s right hand man, Hermann Goering, explaining at his war crimes trial how easily he and his fellow Nazis hijacked Germany´s democratic government. The second statement is a quote from Bush´s right hand man, John Ashcroft, defending the Patriot Act and explaining why dissent will no longer be tolerated in the age of terrorism. If that doesn´t send chills down your spine, nothing will.
When the shooting started at Lexington Green in 1775, those calling themselves patriots were the men and women who refused to yield their rights to an increasingly oppressive government. Today, according to John Ashcroft and his Patriot Act of 2001, a patriot is someone who kneels down in fear, and hands over his or her rights to the government in the name of fighting terrorism. Isn´t the hypocrisy of this all too obvious? The Bush administration wants us to fight in Afghanistan, to fight in Iraq, and to fight wherever terrorists may be hiding. And what, pray tell, are we fighting for? Well, according to the White House, we´re fighting for freedom. Yet freedom is exactly what the White House is demanding that we now SURRENDER in the name of fighting terrorism.
So what´s really going on? Well, it´s all a lie, of course. The Bush administration isn´t any more interested in protecting our freedom from terrorists than Hitler was in protecting Germans from communists, Jews, and all the other groups he scapegoated. The Bush administration is fighting only to protect itself and its corporate sponsors. It hides behind a veil of national security and behind non-stop war headlines of its own creation. And behind that smokescreen, Bush, Inc. is pursuing Hitler’s old agenda from the 1920s and 1930s: serving the interests of the corporate industrialists who brought it to power.
There is a name for governments that serve the interests of Big Business at the expense of their own citizens: fascist. Here´s a short list of the rights we´ve already surrendered since the September 11 attacks. Most of these abuses are from a single piece of legislation called the Patriot Act of 2001, which was rushed through Congress with no debate in the aftermath of the attacks. Many of the Congressmen who voted for it later admitted that they hadn´t even read it at the time.
3) Ten Key Dangers of The Patriot Act That Every American Should Know
No. 1: The government can conduct "sneak and peek" searches in which agents enter your home or business and search your belongings without informing you until long after.
No. 2: Government agents can force libraries and bookstores to hand over the titles of books that you1ve purchased or borrowed and can demand the identity of anyone who has purchased or borrowed certain books. The government can also prosecute libraries and bookstores for informing you that the search occurred or even for informing you that an inquiry was made. According to ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer, such "searches could extend to doctors offices, banks and other institutions which, like libraries, were previously off-limits under the law." Chris Finan, President of the American Booksellers group adds: "The refusal of the Justice Department to tell Congress how many times it has used its powers is even more unsettling because it naturally leads to the suspicion that it is using them a lot."
No. 3: Federal agents are authorized to use hidden devices to trace the telephone calls or emails of people who are not even suspected of a crime. The FBI is also permitted to use its Magic Lantern technology to monitor everything you do on your computer--recording not just the websites you visit but EVERY SINGLE KEYSTROKE as well.
No. 4: Government agents are permitted to arrest and detain individuals "suspected" of terrorist activities and to hold them INDEFINITELY, WITHOUTCHARGE, and WITHOUT an ATTORNEY. (That could be you or me for sending or receiving this Email, by the way)
No. 5: Federal agents are permitted to conduct full investigations of American citizens and permanent legal residents simply because they have participated in activities protected by the First Amendment, such as writing a letter to the editor or attending a peaceful rally.
No. 6: Law enforcement agents are permitted to listen in on discussions between prisoners and their attorneys, thus denying them their Constitutional right to confidential legal counsel.
No. 7: Terrorism suspects may be tried in secret military tribunals where defendants have no right to a public trial, no right to trial by jury, no right to confront the evidence, and no right to appeal to an independent court. In short, the Constitution does not apply.
No. 8: The CIA is granted authority to spy on American citizens, a power that has previously been denied to this international espionage organization.
No. 9: In addition to the Patriot Act, the Bush administration has given us Operations TIPS, a government program that encourages citizens to spy on each other and to report their neighbors activities to the authorities. It´s EXACLTY the kind of thing for which we used to fault East Germany and the Soviet Union, and for which we currently fault Red China and North Korea. Fortunately, Operation TIPS (or AmeriSnitch, as it´s known to its many detractors) seems to have been recalled to the factory--at least for now. (Incidentally, in a clever variation of "two-can-play-at-that-game”, Brad Templeton has set up a website at http://www.all-the-other-names-were-taken.com/tipstips.html where you can report people you suspect of being informants for Operation TIPS. It´s an interesting and amusing site, well worth a look.)
No. 10: In the wake of Operation TIPS came something even worse: Total Information Awareness. TIA is a program of the Defense Department that when fully operational will link commercial and government databases so that the DOD can immediately put its finger on any piece of information about you that it wants. New York Times columnist William Safire writes: "Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book and every event you attend all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as a virtual, centralized grand database." And that´s not all. Who did our president appoint to head the TIA? Who gets to be Big Brother himself? Why it´s none other than John Poindexter, a man convicted in 1990 on five counts of lying to Congress, destroying official documents, and obstructing congressional inquiries into the Iran-contra affair. Another Hermann Goering, if there ever was one.
4) BILL MOYERS´ NOW COMMENTS On THE PATRIOT ACT
At the same time the Bush administration is probing into your private life, it is shielding itself from all public scrutiny. It has shredded the Freedom of Information Act; it has locked away presidential records not only of the current administration but of administrations going all the way back to Reagan as well; and it has even locked up George W. Bush´s gubernatorial records so that the people of Texas can´t see what he did to them while serving as their governor.
Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is also using anti-terror legislation and executive orders to protect its corporate sponsors from scrutiny and from prosecution. The drug company Eli Lilly, for instance, was recently granted immunity from all cases brought against it-–even those initiated long before the war on terrorism--related to a vaccine it manufactured that turned out to cause autism in many children. (Eli Lilly contributed over $3 million in the last two election campaigns.) The Bush administration also protected the Bayer Corporation1s patent on the antibiotic Cipro throughout the anthrax scare, whereas other countries, such as Canada, broke that patent so that other companies could make cheaper versions of the drug in case of emergency.
It is interesting to note that during WWII Bayer was part of the I.G. Farben conglomerate, the top financial contributor to the Nazi Party. I.G. Farben produced petrol and rubber for the Nazi war machine and it manufactured the Zyklon B gas that was used to exterminate millions of Jews and other "enemies of the state." In exchange for these services, the Nazis provided Farben (and Bayer) with lucrative government contracts and with slave labor from concentration camps.
Under George W. Bush´s kinder, gentler fascism, U.S. corporations are now allowed to do business with the Homeland Security Department even if they cheat the government out of vast amounts of tax revenues by setting up offshore business fronts in the Caribbean Islands. It used to be that tax-evaders were tracked down and punished. Now they´re rewarded with fat government contracts. Could the slave labor be far behind?
If only this were the extent of the Bush administration´s ramble down the road to fascism. Way back in November of 2001, William Safire accused the Bush administration of "seizing dictatorial power." Well, Mr. Safire, you ain´t seen nothing yet. Just when you thought it couldn´t get any worse, just when you thought we can´t lose any more of our liberties and still call ourselves a "free society," we learn that the Bush administration wants to take away even more of our rights. A secret document was just leaked out of John Ashcroft´s Justice Department and turned over to the Center for Public Integrity. Titled the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, this document turns out to be a draft of new anti-terrorism legislation, a vastly more muscular sequel to Patriot Act. If passed, it would grant the executive branch sweeping new powers of domestic surveillance, and it would eliminate most of the few remaining checks and balances that protect us from tyranny.
It´s the Patriot Act on steroids. Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity shared this document with Bill Moyers, who examined it on NOW, his weekly PBS program. That episode aired Friday, February 7, yet even now no mainstream news broadcaster has picked up this incredible story. Read the NOW transcript and see the document itself online at http://www.pbs.org/now/. You can also read the Center for Public Integrity´s analysis of the document at http://www.publicintegrity.org/ .
Dr. David Cole, a Law professor at Georgetown University and author of Terrorism and the Constitution assessed the document, saying, "I think this is a quite radical proposal. It authorizes secret arrests. It would give the Attorney General essentially unchecked authority to deport anyone who he thought was a danger to our economic interests. It would strip citizenship from people for lawful political associations."
"Secret arrests”? Did we hear that right? It seems that the Homeland Security Department (HSD) is about to become the KGB. The first Patriot Act already allows for people to be locked up indefinitely without a lawyer and without being charged with a crime. If Patriot Act II passes, then arrests would also be secret. That means that dissenters (or anyone else, for that matter) could disappear without a trace, just as they did in Nazi Germany, in Stalinist Russia, and in Pinochet´s Chile.
Patriot Act II would also grant even more immunity to Big Business. A corporation could pour toxins into your local river, for instance, and you wouldn´t know about it until all the fish died and your neighbor’s kids were born with missing limbs. And then when you went to court and demanded to know what
the company was dumping in your river, the company could deny you that information on the grounds that it´s a national security secret. JimHightower put it this way: "All a company has to do to shield anything it wants to keep from the public eye--say, an embarrassing chemical spill--is give the documents to the Homeland Security Department and call them "critical infrastructure information."
Ah, but there´s even more to be concerned about here. The document was created back in early January, but so far it appears that the only members of Congress who even know of its existence are House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Vice-president Dick Cheney. (The Vice-president presides over the Senate, which makes him a member of the legislative branch as well as the executive branch.) This raises a troubling question: Why has the White House been sitting on this bill for a month? If the CEOs down at Bush, Inc. really believe that they need these broad new powers to protect us from terrorists, why not roll out that bill and start the debate? The answer is all too plain. In all likelihood, the Bush administration was planning to avoid debate entirely by springing this bill on the American people in the midst of a perceived national crisis. Perhaps during the war with Iraq, for instance. Or perhaps in the aftermath of the next terrorist attack. Or perhaps right after the Reichstag fire.
Had some courageous soul not leaked this document out of the Justice Department, the White House might easily have succeeded in passing it through Congress without debate in the midst of our next perceived national crisis, much as it did with the first Patriot Act in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. A thorough debate of this bill right now, under fairly stable circumstances, would defuse it and prevent its passage even under more frightening circumstances later on. There´s just one problem. The debate can´t begin until more Americans know about this bill, but so far the Washington Post is the only major news outlet to even MENTION this story since Bill Moyers broke it on Friday night.