Executive Intelligence Review
This article appears in the October 5, 2001 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Ashcroft Seeks Hitler-Style
Dictatorship Measures

by Edward Spannaus

[PDF version of this article]

To understand the extraordinary powers being sought by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft under the rubric of anti-terrorism legislation, one must know the process by which the Nazi emergency measures, the Notverordnungen, were established in early 1933, on the pretext of the Reichstag fire.

As is discussed in this issue's Editorial, Adolf Hitler had been put into power by a circle of British and U.S. financiers, whose situation was becoming increasingly desperate at the time. Within a month, the Anglo-American-backed plotters of the Hitler coup d'état, arranged the Reichstag fire—immediately and falsely blamed on the Communists—which was used as a justification for the emergency police-state laws.

In January 2001, shortly after the nomination of John Ashcroft was announced, Lyndon LaRouche warned that we would soon see the outbreaks of provocations and wars, to which the Bush Administration would respond with crisis-management, Notverordnung-type emergency measures. If John Ashcroft were confirmed for U.S. Attorney General, LaRouche warned, he would be in a position of crucial responsibility as part of an Executive branch crisis-management team, at the point when the administation would be faced with an unavoidable series of financial and strategic crises.

LaRouche and his associates made a fight out of the Ashcroft nomination—on precisely this issue of the role that Ashcroft would play under crisis conditions. The leadership of the Democratic Party ducked the issue, even when the Senate Democrats clearly had the power to stop Ashcroft's confirmation as Attorney General. Today, there can be no doubt: that LaRouche was right, and they were wrong, in allowing Ashcroft's nomination to go through.

The parallel of the Nazi emergency laws is the precise parallel to understand what Ashcroft is now doing. That is not to say that he is witting of the overall coup d'état plot now under way. But Ashcroft's actions today are consistent with those of certain Nazi officials in 1933. He is playing into the coup plot, the same way some German officials played into the 1933 plot to put Hitler into power and then to quickly establish a dictatorship.

Ashcroft's Emergency Powers

Since the events of Sept. 11, Ashcroft, who up to that point had operated largely out of the public limelight, has emerged as a prominent spokesman and a key player in the Bush Administration's crisis-management team. And he has demonstrated that LaRouche's warnings were fully justified.

In the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, Ashcroft's Department of Justice (DOJ) went into action to patch together a new package of anti-terrorism laws—which consisted largely of measures which the Justice Department had already been seeking, but had been unable to get passed by Congress.

And even as the new legislative package was being submitted to Congress and debated, Ashcroft's Justice Department and the FBI were already stretching existing laws beyond any previous limits, in rounding up and detaining hundreds of persons, largely of Middle Eastern origin.

In his appearance before the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 24, Ashcroft reported that the FBI and INS (the DOJ's Immigration and Naturalization Service) have arrested or detained 352 individuals since Sept. 11, and they are seeking 392 more beyond that. (Some informed sources believed that the number actually detained far exceeds Ashcroft's official estimate.)

Of the 352 being held as of Sept. 24, there were 98 being detained on immigration violations, and 254 were being held on other charges, generally for minor offenses such as traffic violations, misdemeanors, and identification fraud. At least a dozen are being held as "material witnesses"—a hitherto little-used provision, that allows law enforcement to hold a person without bond, if he is deemed likely to have significant information about a crime.

According to press accounts, many of those detained have not been given access to a lawyer, and some are being held incommunicado.

The Justice Department's Legislative Package

Even though Ashcroft had demanded that Congress pass his so-called "Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001" within a week, many members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican, balked, and demanded time to read and analyze it. A mark-up of the bill, scheduled for Sept. 25 by the House Judiciary Committee, had to be postponed for a week. The Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (Vt.), is working on his own version—which retains many of the Ashcroft proposals—with the objective of arriving at a "consensus" version of the bill.

Following are some of the most objectionable provisions of the Justice Department bill as presented by Attorney General Ashcroft:

  • Expand the government's right to conduct secret search-and-seizure operations;

  • Expand the INS's deportation and detention powers;

  • Permit authorities to seize computer e-mail and voice-mail without a wiretap court order;

  • Allow a nationwide roving wiretap order for all communications by an individual;

  • Allow the use of criminal wiretap information for intelligence purposes, and allow use of national-security electronic intercepts for criminal cases (which cannot legally be done now);

  • Allow the use in U.S. courts, of foreign government intercepts of U.S. citizens' phone conversations abroad, obtained without Fourth Amendment protections;

  • Allow secret grand jury information to be released to military and intelligence agencies;

  • Increase all terrorism offenses to carry up to possible life sentences;

  • Expand the use of racketeering laws in terrorism cases;

  • Permit the Attorney General to issue an "administrative subpoena" for documents and records, in a terrorism or national security case, rather than requiring that the subpoena be issued by a duly convened grand jury, which is subject to judicial review;

  • Limit a detained person's ability to bring a habeas corpus petition, or seek judicial review (an appeal) of a detention order, so that it can be brought only in Federal court in Washington, D.C., no matter where the person is detained.

A number of the above provisions are made all the more dangerous, because of the expansion of the definition of "terrorism" under current law—which could now include civil disobedience, or any act of violence, or threatened violence, not carried out for financial gain.

'Homeland Security'

Another part of the administration's overall response to Sept. 11, is the proposal to create a Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security, to coordinate both preventive counter-terrorist measures, and responses to any terrorist attack.

The New York Times reported on Sept. 28, that the administration wants to give the new agency powers to match those of the existing National Security Council. The new "Homeland Security Council" would include the Secretaries of the Justice, Defense, Treasury, and Health and Human Services Departments, as well as the heads of the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

At this point, the new agency appears to be more of a coordination focal point, rather than a new command structure. But, potentially, such a structure could combine two of the worst features of the Reagan-Bush crisis-management structure which ran what is known as "Iran-Contra" and other covert operations.

These were 1) the National Security Council staff structure, typified by Lt. Col. Oliver North, which ran a "parallel and secret government," and, 2) the "continuity of government," or "emergency preparedness" program, responsible for contingency planning for nuclear war, disaster, or mass civil unrest. (This was actually Ollie North's first assignment in the NSC.) It was reported at the time, that contingency plans existed under this program, to suspend the Constitution in a period of national emergency. This program also incorporated the Defense Department's Civil Disturbance Plan, known as "Operation Garden Plot," which dates from the 1960s, and is still in effect today.

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