November 17th at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Center for Constitutional Rights (where I serve as Executive Director) launched the People vs. Ashcroft Campaign — a web based initiative calculated to spark a massive grassroots movement to demand the resignation/removal of Attorney General John Ashcroft from office as a danger to democracy.
In the past few months I have repeatedly warned that we are living in one of the most frightening periods in American history. This dire assessment is derived from the fact that election 2004 produced an illegitimate “resident” in the White House in the person of George Bush who captured the presidency with the complicity of a conservative dominated Supreme Court. Subsequent events have revealed why Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz and company were hell bent on seizing power. In the early 90′s they concocted a scheme called The New American Century, a radical right wing blueprint for dominating the politics and economics of America and the world. After stealing the election, Bush and company assembled a team of skilled and loyal advisors and cabinet members to be the high profile foot soldiers in this sinister enterprise – enter Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell and one John Ashcroft.
Ashcroft’s posture on civil rights for Blacks and women was so bad that he barely survived the congressional confirmation process. During his tenure as Governor and U.S. Senator, he actively opposed affirmative action and other civil rights. He almost single handedly blocked the confirmation of a highly respected African American judge for months because his credentials were not sufficiently “Clarence Thomas like.” And, an examination of his speeches and writings revealed definite sympathies for the Confederacy and right wing organizations with a racist tinge. Hardly the kind of person progressives would want to become the chief law enforcement officer in the land. However, Bush viewed Ashcroft as the ideal individual to be the hit man for the task of disciplining the American people to acquiesce to the decimation of democracy as we know it.
The horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 provided the perfect pretext for the Bush regime to amass unto the executive branch vast new powers to spy on and invade the lives of ordinary citizens in the name of prosecuting the “war against terrorism.” Exploiting the mood of the country, a series of invasive procedures were cleverly wrapped in the American Flag and presented to Congress as the USA Patriot Act! Largely crafted by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Bush demanded that this Bill be enacted immediately. Ashcroft sprung into action, pressuring and bullying Congress to pass the Patriot Act virtually without review, questions, or revisions. This mad rush to pass such far reaching legislation was justified in the interest of providing the administration, particularly the Department of Justice, with the tools needed to protect the American people from further terrorist attacks. Any delay in passing this legislation, Ashcroft scowled, was tantamount to aiding America’s enemies.
Congress capitulated – the USA Patriot Act was passed in record time for a measure of its scope and magnitude. Though many Congress Members had reservations, they were largely silenced by the menacing stance of John Ashcroft. Instantly the regime had at its disposal a measure which allows Big Brother to “sneak and peep” into your computer and secure information without you ever knowing it; access your medical, school and library records (librarians are required to inform the government what books you have taken out); tap your cell phone without permission from a judge if your home or office phone is already bugged; monitor and take pictures of you at demonstrations, rallies or community meetings (you can land in the files of the FBI without even knowing it); arrest you for participating in a demonstration or rally as a “domestic terrorist” if you engage in civil disobedience, and detain you for up to seven days without probable cause that you have committed a crime! Big Brother can harass and intimidate you at his discretion.
But the case against Ashcroft goes far beyond the USA Patriot Act. In an Executive Order issued after the adoption of this terrifying legislation, Ashcroft assumed the power to detain you or anyone he vaguely suspects of having associated with a “terrorist” or terrorist organization, indefinitely – no reasonable suspicion, no probable cause, just his opinion based on whatever whim or fancy he chooses at a particular moment. As a consequence, in the prosecution of the “war against terrorism” Ashcroft’s army has engaged in massive “profiling” of Muslims and Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian “looking” individuals. Hundreds of non-citizen “suspects” were rounded up after 9/11 and thrown into detention centers without benefit of counsel or access to their families. Scores of prisoners are also being detained at the military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in violation of the Geneva Convention. And, even U.S. citizens have been detained, defined as “enemy combatants” and denied access to an attorney.
These are among the “intolerable acts” being committed by John Ashcroft. A growing number of Americans across the political spectrum are beginning to conclude that Ashcroft at the behest of his boss, “Bush the Younger,” is trampling on the Constitution and shredding the Bill of Rights. He is increasingly being viewed as a danger to democracy. Therefore, the People vs. Ashcroft campaign, which is centered on a seven count people’s indictment, seeks to broaden the public awareness of the serious threats to civil liberties posed by Ashcroft. Our goal is to reclaim liberty by driving Big Brother from office.
Accordingly, CCR is challenging you, your family, friends and neighbors to go online to www.peoplevashcroft.org and have the courage to sign an online petition and transmit an email message to the President and key members of Congress demanding that Ashcroft be removed from office! Through concerted citizen’s action, we can rescue our democracy from the clutches of the likes of John Ashcroft!