Magazine article The New American

The Emerging Police State: With the Threat of Terrorism as a Convenient Cover, the Push Is on to Centralize Police-State Powers in the Hands of a Strong Executive Branch. (on the Home Front)

Magazine article The New American

The Emerging Police State: With the Threat of Terrorism as a Convenient Cover, the Push Is on to Centralize Police-State Powers in the Hands of a Strong Executive Branch. (on the Home Front)

Article excerpt

Attorney General John Ashcroft's recent rebuke of the Bush administration's civil libertarian critics is setting off alarms all across the political spectrum. Ashcroft, speaking to the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 6th, accused critics of Bush administration policies of "fearmongering," adding ominously:

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. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.

Ashcroft hastened to reassure his audience that new anti-terror initiatives "have been carefully crafted to avoid infringing on constitutional rights while saving American lives," and that the Bush administration intends to cooperate with Congress in fighting terrorism. Two days after Ashcroft's remarks, Mindy Tucker, the Justice Department's communications director, attempted to placate those who took exception to Ashcroft's comments, explaining that Ashcroft was referring only to "misstatements and the spread of misinformation," and claiming that the controversy over Ashcroft's statement was "part of the exact problem he was describing."

The real issue, though, is whether critics of the Bush administration have a point. Are American liberties being jeopardized by the "War on Terrorism," or are such claims merely a smear campaign orchestrated by partisan enemies and crackpot extremists? Based on the trend in recent events, the long-term threat of permanently curtailed liberties is very real.

Much has already been made of Bush's proposed military tribunals, which have become something of a rallying point for political enemies of the Bush administration. The notion of secret military tribunals, even if restricted to non-U.S. citizens, is scary enough (see the article on page 18), especially in light of calls from the likes of Judge Robert Bork, writing in the National Review, to extend their jurisdiction to U.S. citizens. But the proposed tribunals are only part of a larger movement to involve the U.S. military in domestic law enforcement.

Since September 11th, Americans have gotten used to the unsettling sight of National Guard troops policing airports and the streets of Washington, D.C., and to military jets patrolling the skies above some of our larger cities. Most of us assume that this is a temporary, emergency response to an unexpected terrorist threat. In reality, plans to use the National Guard as a permanent means to enforce internal security have been in the works for at least several years.

Alarming Predictions

Shortly after the September 11th attacks, a few reports surfaced in the national press of the work of the so-called Hart-Rudman Commission. A policy study group created in 1998, this commission was charged with creating policy recommendations designed to meet the evolving security and defense requirements of the United States over the next 25 years. The group, officially named the United States Commission on National Security/21st Century, was in part the brainchild of Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House. Gingrich is a disciple of futurist Alvin Toffler, whose ideas appear to be part of the inspiration for the project and whose firm, Toffler Associates, is one of the commission's acknowledged consultants. The commission itself, chaired by former Senators Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) and Gary Hart (D-Colo.), sports an impressive roster of Washington power players. Besides Newt Gingrich they include Council on Foreign Relations president Leslie Gelb, former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, and former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger.

In keeping with the futurist bent of its originator, the commission devoted much of its early work to predicting future trends. …

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