12:38 - 12 June, 2005
USA Patriot Act and the Nazi Enabling Act
On March 23, 1933, Adolf Hitler pushed the
the Enabling Act, which provided the newly elected Nazi government with additional
powers to act against enemies of the state. This particular piece of legislation
bears remarkable resemblance to the U.S.A
1) How the Patriot Act Compares to Hitler´s Ermächtigungsgesetz
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
you can lead the sheep to water, but you can't make them think.
you can lead the sheep to water, but you can't make them think.
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