Automated Targeting, Cruise-Control for What Hitler Had to Do By Hand


I’m mad as hell. I’ve written in as moderate and civilized a manner as
is possible (for me) for seven years now about this evil band of
co-conspirators we call an administration. No matter, the gloves are
off. I am like Howard Beale, the newscaster in the 1976 film Network. Grab some dialogue;

We all know things are bad — worse than bad — they’re crazy.

It’s
like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out any more.
We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting
smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our
living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted
radials, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.”

Well, I’m not going to leave you alone.

I want you to get mad!

I
don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you
to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you
to write.
All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad.

You’ve
gotta say, “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!” So, I
want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs.
I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick
your head out and yell,

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!!”

Good old Howard. We should all watch that film every ten years or so along with Dr. Strangelove. Required viewing.
Anyway, the issue that finally yanked my chain is an article that ran in my morning copy of the venerable Washington Post. Ellen Nakashima wrote it, with a research assist by Chertoff
Julie Tate and it first had me nodding, ‘yeah sure, that again’ and proceeded from there to chill my blood.

U.S.
Effort More Extensive Than Previously Known–The U.S. government is
collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of
Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the
persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they
carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have
carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties
advocates and statements by government officials.

The personal
travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part
of the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to assess the security
threat posed by all travelers entering the country. Officials say the
records, which are analyzed by the department’s Automated Targeting
System, help border officials distinguish potential terrorists from
innocent people entering the country.

Michael Chertoff, who has been unable to get anything right as he bumps into the  furniture of terrorism on the world set, and who I wouldn’t trust to take my kids to the dentist, has turned his fascist homeland security crowd loose with something called an Automated Targeting System.
You and I, our wives, sweethearts, husbands off making a living,
kids on holiday and neighbors off on a  trip to Portugal they saved a
lifetime for–are the targets. Mad Mike needs help, so that his
underpaid, undertrained, weapons carrying, reflective sunglasses
wearing, goofus border officials can distinguish potential terrorists
from innocent people entering the country–our country.
Swastika
Now—personally following Beale’s admonition that I had not taken thirty
years ago—I am opening my (still openable, thank god) online window and
calling the Bush administration exactly what it is—

An increasingly fascist motivated government, modeled on Hitler’s Germany.

In a climate of fear that George Bush himself created,
he has taken for himself unprecedented powers. Let me be clear. When I
say ‘Bush himself created,’ I am not subscribing to any conspiracy
theories about the demise of the World Trade Center, but focusing on
the unending demagoguery of his false reference to those acts to keep us in a suspended state of fear.

Four hundred thirty years before Christ, Pericles told those who cared to listen; “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

I
refuse to be intimidated from making a comparison between this
administration and the events in fascist Germany between 1923 and 1945.
They are comparable. It is time, perhaps long past time, to compare them in public discourse without fear of consequence.
Hitler and Hitler’s times have been so distorted by the incredible
ferocity and horror of the Holocaust that it is nearly impossible to
understand either the man or his rise in a then stable democracy. Every step of the way
to the destruction of Europe and the killing of Europe’s Jews, Gypsies,
intellectual elite and individually selected ‘inferior types’ was agreed to either by plebiscite or within Hitler’s elected government.

(Wikipedia)
At the end of July (1932) the Nazi party gained almost 14,000,000 votes
securing 230 seats in the Reichstag. Energized by the incredible
results Hitler asked to be made Chancellor. Papen offered the position
of Vice Chancellor but Hitler refused.

Hermann Goring, in his
position of Reichstag President, asked that decisive measures to be
taken by the government over the spate in murders of national
socialists. On August 9 amendments were made to the statute on ‘acts of
political violence’ increasing the penalty to ‘lifetime imprisonment,
20 years hard labour or death’.

Special Courts were announced
to try such offences, when in power less than half a year later, Hitler
would use this legislation against his opponents with devastating
effect.

Those ‘amendments’ were marshaled through by Herman Goering, then the Speaker of the Reichstag as well as president. Everything legal and above board. ‘Special courts were announced’
has its own ring of today’s Bush-Cheney operation. Remember, this was
1932 and economic depression in Germany was every bit the equal of
terrorist fear in America.
Hitler1933
Both are red meat to the demagogue.

The Nazi party lost 34 seats in the November 1932 election but remained the Reichstag’s largest party.
In
November (Chancellor) Papen left office and two months later secretly
told Hitler that he still held considerable sway with Hindenburg and
that he would make Hitler chancellor as long as he could be the vice
chancellor. On January 30 Adolf Hitler is appointed chancellor of a
coalition government comprised of the NSDAP-DNVP-Centre Party. The SA
and to a lesser extent the SS lead torchlight parades throughout
Berlin. In the coalition government three members of the cabinet
including Hitler and also Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick and
Hermann Goering as Minister Without Portfolio are Nazis.

Meanwhile,
we take a brief interlude from democracy and get into the serious
business of limiting dissent, but hey, who’s noticing?

The
Night of the Long Knives or “Operation Hummingbird,” took place in
Germany between June 30 and July 2, 1934, when the Nazi regime executed
at least eighty-five people for political reasons. Most of those killed
were members of the “Storm Division” (SA), a Nazi paramilitary
organization. Adolf Hitler moved against the SA and its leader, Ernst
Röhm, because he saw the independence of the SA and the penchant of its
members for street violence as a direct threat to his power. Hitler
also wanted to forestall any move by army leaders, who both feared and
despised the SA, to curtail his rule. Finally, Hitler used the purge to
act against conservative critics of his regime, especially those loyal
to Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, and to settle scores with old
enemies.

There has to be order in the streets.

President
Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor on January 30,
1933. Over the next months, Hitler eliminated all rival political
parties in Germany so that by the summer of 1933, the country had
become a one-party state under his direction and control. However,
despite his swift consolidation of political authority, Hitler did not
exercise absolute power. As chancellor, Hitler did not command the army,
which remained under the formal leadership of Hindenburg as its
commander-in-chief. While many officers were impressed by Hitler’s
promises of an expanded army, a return to conscription, and a more
aggressive foreign policy, the army continued to guard its traditions
of independence during the early years of the Nazi regime.

Bushcheney
And so there was virtually no one to stop him. Which is one of the most
elegant arguments for the impeachment of Bush-Cheney in America, not
the fact (and indeed it is fact) of impeachable offense, but the breaking of continuity between this presidency and those that follow.
Powers given are powers taken yet never given back.
It’s not out of order here to check in with Napoleon and his words
from exile. Another man who could turn a phrase in the cause of self
promotion;

“Those who failed to oppose me, who
readily agreed with me, accepted all my views, and yielded easily to my
opinions, were those who did me the most injury, and were my worst
enemies, because, by surrendering to me so easily, they encouraged me
to go too far… I was then too powerful for any man, except myself, to
injure me.”
                                -Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France 1769-1821)

Those who fail to oppose in these times are

  • Democrats intimidated by the tag of ‘soft on terrorism,’
  • Disenchanted neo-cons who have waited for the rapture of undoing 75 years of American social welfare
  • Embittered Nixon-era survivors who feel that president was
    improperly brought down and have since hungered for presidential
    empowerment.
  • Those citizens intimidated by even the thought of a terrorist incident

No real need to name you, but I will, for the sheer hell of it;

Intimidated Democrats; the whole bunch, excluding perhaps Joe Biden, Barack, Dennis Kucinich and possibly Hillary.
Disenchanted neo-cons; William
Kristol, Richard Perle, David Addington, L. Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz
for starters and the incredible number of wide-eyed new recruits Bush
packaged off as ‘advisors’ to the agencies of government, fill out the
group.
Nixon-era survivors; Donald Rumsfeld and the most dangerous vice-president this country has ever had to endure, Richard Cheney.

Bushdunkindonuts
You can argue my effort to draw parallels between these present day
occupants of the White House (and its Republican environs) and Hitler’s
rise in Germany, but you may not tell me that the comparison is out of bounds. That won’t sell any longer. That very argument, that national interest trumps national discourse, is itself fascist.
I will not be intimidated.
Which leads me to the thrust of this particular argument, that Mike Chertoff’s Automated Targeting System is Hitlerism without the need of a pen.

The
details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of
official records on their own travel. Those records included a
description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small
flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf.

. . .
Officials yesterday defended the retention of highly personal data on
travelers not involved in or linked to any violations of the law. But
civil liberties advocates have alleged that the type of information
preserved by the department raises alarms about the government’s
ability to intrude into the lives of ordinary people. The millions of
travelers whose records are kept by the government are generally
unaware of what their records say, and the government has not created
an effective mechanism for reviewing the data and correcting any
errors, activists said.

The activists alleged that the data
collection effort, as carried out now, violates the Privacy Act, which
bars the gathering of data related to Americans’ exercise of their
First Amendment rights, such as their choice of reading material or
persons with whom to associate. They also expressed concern that such
personal data could one day be used to impede their right to travel.

The Privacy Act says (in part) that “no
agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of
records by any means of communication to any person, or to another
agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior
written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains.”

Sounds pretty airtight until you take a look at the exclusions, one of which states “except for law enforcement purposes” and there goes the ball game. Everything in the post 9-11 fascism of George Bush’s administration is for ‘law enforcement’ and to ‘keep the terrorists from coming here.’ He
looks into the camera, squints a bit and presents those stupidities as
rationale for harassing writers as well as businessmen.
Writers? He’s after the writers?

Zak Reed, a
Toledo firefighter, said in an interview that he has been detained at
least seven times at the Michigan border since fall 2006. Twice, he
said, he was questioned by border officials about “politically charged”
opinion pieces he had published in his local newspaper. The essays were
critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East, he said. Once, during a
secondary interview, he said, “they had them printed out on the table
in front of me.”

Reed, an Air Force veteran of the first Gulf
War and a convert to Islam, said that agents drew guns as they
surrounded his car after scanning his passport. He and his wife said
they were separated from each other and from their small children, one
of whom remained without a needed diaper-change for hours.

Well,
what do you expect, he’s a convert to Islam and we know they are all
conspiring against us. Bush invokes 9-11 just as Hitler ranted against
the conspiracies of the Social Democrats and Communists in 1933.

This
very destabilization had been crucial in Hitler’s rise to power,
however, not least because it convinced many Germans that once Hitler
became chancellor, the endemic street violence would end.

Free
at last, free at last, great god almighty, free at last. Once Mike
Chertoff has our histories locked up in his computers, we’ll all be
safe from terrorists and he won’t even need Hitler’s laborious
processing with pencil and pen.

Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff in August 2006 said that “if we learned
anything from Sept. 11, 2001, it is that we need to be better at
connecting the dots of terrorist-related information.

That’s
exactly the problem with guys like Chertoff, in over their heads. They
think technology is going to save their sorry ass. The fact is, Mike,
that 9-11 happened because no one at the FBI picked up their fucking phone and listened to their field agent. Can’t connect those old dots if no one looks
at those old dots, but it was a nice phrase and probably made a bunch
of congressional weasels breathe easier—that at least it was someone else’s dots.

After
Sept. 11, we used credit-card and telephone records to identify those
linked with the hijackers. But wouldn’t it be better to identify such
connections before a hijacker boards a plane?” Chertoff said that
comparing PNR data with intelligence on terrorists lets the government
“identify unknown threats for additional screening” and helps avoid
“inconvenient screening of low-risk travelers.”

We
are going to have terrorist events in this country. Every country in
the world is experiencing this new and very effective protest vote on
the part of those who disagree with us or our policies.

A
DHS spokesman, added that the program is not used to determine “guilt
by association.” He said the DHS has created a program called DHS Trip
to provide redress for travelers who faced screening problems at ports
of entry.

But DHS Trip does not allow a traveler to challenge an
agency decision in court, said David Sobel, senior counsel with the
Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sued the DHS over information
concerning the policy underlying the ATS. Because the system is
exempted from certain Privacy Act requirements, including the right to
“contest the content of the record,” a traveler has no ability to
correct erroneous information, Sobel said.

Who the hell believes there’s no ‘guilt by association?’ What other possible purpose could there be in associating us in the record books for 15 years?
When some customs agent in an obscure airport in an obscure country drags you off a plane because you ‘once sat next to Mohammed Atta on a flight to Prague,’
what are you going to do? Call Ghost Busters? Insist that an unknown
‘DHS spokesman’ promised you there’d be no guilt by association?
If you are unlucky enough to be pulled off that plane in America, you could—perfectly legally under laws currently (but recently) on our books—be
declared a ‘terrorist’ and hustled off to an unknown prison, with no
access to a lawyer and no one phoning home to mom or your wife and
kiddies to tell them what the hell happened to you and why you never
showed up for dinner.
That’s possible today. “Oh, but they’ll never come for me.”

Edward
Hasbrouck, a civil liberties activist who was a travel agent for more
than 15 years, said that his file contained coding that reflected his
plan to fly with another individual. In fact, Hasbrouck wound up not
flying with that person, but the record, which can be linked to the
other passenger’s name, remained in the system. “The Automated
Targeting System,” Hasbrouck alleged, “is the largest system of
government dossiers of individual Americans’ personal activities that
the government has ever created.”

Like having 2,000 ‘friends’ on MySpace.

He
said that travel records are among the most potentially invasive of
records because they can suggest links: They show who a traveler sat
next to, where they stayed, when they left. “It’s that lifetime log of
everywhere you go that can be correlated with other people’s movements
that’s most dangerous.” 

And I will leave you
to chew all that over and see if it needs to be spit out or swallowed.
Two very wise presidents spoke to us on this subject, one a hundred
years ago and the other two hundred. But wisdom has a terrific
shelf-life.

Theodore Roosevelt cautioned that “to
announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we
are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic
and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

That’s
excellent advice, but what of prophesy? James Madison fills the bill in
the prophecy department quite neatly, in a single sentence that might
well take the place of this entire argument;

“The
fetters (shackles) imposed on liberty at home have ever been forged out
of the weapons provided for defense against real, pretended, or
imaginary dangers from abroad.”

Real, pretended or imaginary.
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