Democratic Underground

The Daily War Watch
An FBI Warning A Day
October 2, 2001
by J B

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It is going to take a hell of a lot more than this to keep the terrorists away, Mr. Ashcroft.

Is anyone else getting tired of this? I swear, it's been one dire warning a day, no more and no less, from the FBI or the Justice Department or from Ashcroft himself. First we had the crop duster scare. The crop dusters are coming! Not to belittle too much, but seriously, if it was a real threat then they should have damned well kept the nationwide crop duster flight ban ON, rather than take it down the day after it was put up.

Drudge's Sunday afternoon headline is "ASHCROFT WARNS OF NEW THREATS". Of course he is. He can't be in any mood to admit that the FBI ought to have known more about these terror attacks; the FBI is part of his fiefdom. His image is on the line. His budgets may be on the line. His credibility is potentially under attack.

So what does the FBI and the Justice Department do when under attack?

Well, Exhibit A is the charred remains of children at the Branch Davidian compound.

When the US government is under attack, the US government finds something to attack.

What really bothers me about the whole thing is that Ashcroft, in the words of one, is advocating every single bad law enforcement idea rejected by cooler heads in the last five years.

Let me go further.

Ashcroft is trying to fundamentally rewrite the balance of power among the separate branches of government.

Exhibit B of my case is the proposal that the US government becomes able to use evidence gathered with illegal means in foreign countries (regardless of whether that evidence is even legal in THOSE countries or not) in order to prosecute terrorism offenses.

Let me explain what this means.

Imagine an Arab terrorist in Saudi Arabia in a cell. Three men hold him down as a fourth takes a burning cigarette butt and holds it against the top of the prisoner's left hand. The terrorist/prisoner screams.

The fourth man says calmly, "If you want it to stop, then talk. Tell me who your leader is. If not..."

The fourth man grinds the cigarette butt into the prisoner's hand.

The prisoner screams out, "BIN LADEN!! IT'S OSAMA!!!"

An American prosecutor in a sober voice explains before a judge in a federal courtroom, "This transcript was procured from witness questioning by Saudi Arabian law enforcement. We believe this is compelling evidence of the involvement of Mr. Bin Laden in this conspiracy."

Is this a scene coming to an America near you?

What about indefinitely holding immigrants without charging with them with a crime? Hell, what about this whole movement to demand cooperation from other nations without evidence? What is this, "We don't need no stinkin' evidence" now? We somehow have no need of actually producing probable cause because our evidence is too sensitive to be revealed and might compromise sources? So what then, we have to hold our trials in secret, too, on the basis of not being able to reveal our sources to anyone? Ever?

Oh, and if you're a hacker, you probably have heard, but even the most elementary snooping of any computer is now cause for life in prison.

WITHOUT parole.

Think about that. Invading a computer and taking a poke around, and not even doing anything to it, can get you more prison time than almost any rapist, many murderers, most stealers of cars, and I'm sure there are just a million other examples. Life without parole! Without even the prayer of parole! Remember, a lot of hackers are kids. So we're gonna put 15 year olds in prison for life until they're 90 year old men?

You bet your life we will!

This is Ashcroft's America. Justice will prevail. Perpetrators will be punished appropriate to their crimes.

And who decides what punishment is appropriate?

Who decides what evidence is fit to be unleashed, or must be kept secret?

Who decides what charge to fit to the accused?

The sole decider of these things is the executive branch.

We're getting to the point where guilt and innocence is something to be arbitrarily declared by the Attorney General. "Dead or Alive" certainly shows us what the precedent is. Who the hell CARES if the criminal is brought back alive? Just take him out. Corpses don't get appeals.

Well that's the point!

Corpses DON'T get appeals. That's why making corpses out of suspects is bad. The word is - and whether you believe the word is your decision - that the NYPD has a long-standing policy of killing anyone who is believed to have killed a police officer, whether or not lives are in danger, so that there is no access of the criminal justice system by the criminal in the belief that only injustice could be done. Justice is a bullet through the head. When word passes to take no prisoners, no prisoners are taken.

Whatever the merits or disadvantages of this policy, it is now essentially the policy of the United States. Terrorists must end up dead. If they're brought in for trial, then it's an opportunity to show off the terrible justice of the United States. If not, then no matter. This is a matter of state. The majesty of the government has been spat upon. All measures are acceptable.

Just like at Waco?

Too much time had passed, the credibility of the state was at stake, who cared who got in the way? The government had to act because it just HAD TO ACT?

Here's the problem.

Ashcroft hasn't actually done anything yet.

All of this campaign to strip away American freedoms, all of these dire warnings to frighten us, all of this hot air blowing, has not done a single tangible thing to make us safer. The things that ARE helping make us safer, arrests of terrorists in the network that caused the attacks, are not being played up.

There is one easy explanation, and that is that Ashcroft, and all he surveys (such as the FBI), are engaged in a massive operation to cover their ass and to shield themselves from the potential criticism of the public, or more importantly and immediately, criticism from the media and from Congress. After all, they are supposed to be beyond reproach. They are supposed to be answerable, in practice, only to the President. This privilege must be maintained at all costs. The idea that Justice was AWOL when the World Trade Center was hit must be eliminated.

Everywhere I turn, the executive branch is looking for more and more and more power. Rather than do something legitimate like declare emergency war powers, the administration is seeking powers by legislation that will not expire. Leveraging disaster to rewrite the Constitution is, quite frankly, rather despicable. Worse, building upon his example of writing a legal opinion in his capacity as Attorney General that undercut a 66 year or so old Justice Department policy on gun control law, Ashcroft is proving himself to be even more beholden to the sitting President than Janet Reno was accused of being to the last. If this keeps up, we're not going to be able to trust the executive branch with these kinds of federal law enforcement responsibilities anymore. Maybe the old idea of putting the Attorney General under the auspices of the Supreme Court is a better idea today? None of this Fourth Branch business. Whatever happens, there has to be tension between the branches of government.

That brings up a crucial problem. As long as Democrats in Congress keep their heads down and stop fighting, the tension is gone. The Supreme Court can take no action until cases are brought before it. Against the unified will of Congress and the President, under these circumstances, how much can we trust that court to defend our freedoms? Freedom begins at home, in the House. Democracy cannot be defended with political cowardice.

I mean, let's look at New York. Although he's pulling an Evita on us, trying to make us think that he's having this pushed on him, and maybe it's even partly true, he's gotten it into his head that extending his term is a good idea, either temporarily or permanently. Democracy is just too... inconvenient at the moment. The law is a hindrance. The law, therefore, should be bent.

Is this not a violation of every principle that America stands for? I mean, EVERY principle? Like, votes matter? Democracy works on a timetable? Laws are sacrosanct? Democracy will survive all? Democracy is there to protect the People, not the politicians they elect? I mean, when, EVER, has an elected official's term being ended been waived by an act of law by a legislature?

Ask yourself if George Washington would have stood for this if he was mayor of New York.

Men like Ashcroft always bemoan the lack of study of dead white guys in history. Let's talk about dead white guys, dead white guys who were a hell of a lot less religious than Ashcroft, though you never hear this mentioned in public nowadays for whatever reason. Which Founding Fathers would have stood for what he is proposing? I'd honestly like to know. I'd just love to know which Founding Fathers would trade liberty for security.

The way we're going, it'll be like the Redcoats never left.

This is not acceptable.

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