Monday, January 23, 2006

Geheime Staatspolizei

Otherwise known as the Gestapo, this official secret police force existed under the umbrella administration of the Schutzstaffel (SS) in Nazi Germany but was directly administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RHSA), the Reich Central Security Office. Think of the RHSA as the Bush administration's Orwellian Department of Homeland Security. The Gestapo had authority to combat "all tendencies dangerous to the State."

Though the official scope of today's DHS is rather larger than the duty of the RHSA's, as the respsonse to Katrina demonstrated, the functional scope of the DHS does not extend beyond the regime of terrorism, a term that comes with it an ability to morph on demand. The RHSA's mandate was to fight "enemies of the Reich." In today's lexicon, these enemies would be labelled "evil doers," or in the preferred legalistic jargon of the White House, "enemy combatants." That has appeared to be all the DHS concerns itself with, though it has done a spectacularly bad job of that, having received a failing grade from post-9/11 commission group.

How does the Gestapo fit into comparison of the USDHS and the RHSA? Ben Frank has been diving into the Patriot Act that is coming up for renewal, again, and has uncloaked a rather interesting provision within the bowels of that dastardly piece of legislation. Under the purview of the DHS, Section 605 of the USA Patriot Act provides for the establishment of National Secret Service Police Force:
here is hereby created and established a permanent police force, to be known as the `United States Secret Service Uniformed Division'. Subject to the supervision of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division shall perform such duties as the Director, United States Secret Service, may prescribe in connection with the protection of the following:
(1) The White House in the District of Columbia.
(2) Any building in which Presidential offices are located.
(3) The Treasury Building and grounds.
This subsection goes onto list more specific duties and targets of "protection"; various members of the executive, but the salient point is the overriding concern for the protection of the executive and especially the president and vice president. As Frank points out, the US has never had a federal police force and this will operate exclusively at the behest of the president, without oversight by any other branch of the federal government. Lack of oversight, especially judicial oversight, was a prized feature of the Gestapo. As we have seen this administration argue, the courts have no authority over presidential decrees of "enemy combatant" and that such decrees are his purview and his alone. A secret service police force adds considerable muscle to such a stance.

The establishment of the SSUD is of a piece with another provision in the Patriot Act that would allow the arrest and imprisonment of "disruptors" of public events, specifically, public appearances of George Bush or Dick Cheney. The term is purposefully vague and would allow the newly established SSUD to arrest anyone, anywhere who might be inclined toward protest, which could be as benign as pointed questioning.
A "little-noticed provision" in the latest version of the Patriot Act will empower Secret Service to charge protesters with a new crime of "disrupting major events including political conventions and the Olympics." Secret Service would also be empowered to charge persons with "breaching security" and to charge for "entering a restricted area" which is "where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting."
No one really knows, of course, just what a "disruptor" would have to do in order to get themselves arrested. But that is the point. Since the American public can't know what is and is not allowed, then they must think that any -- any -- dissent could lead to jail time and a criminal record. Such a condition naturally has a chilling effect on that sort of behaviour, which is just what Bush wants. As was noted about the Gestapo:
By February and March 1942, student protests were calling for an end to the Nazi regime. Despite the significant popular support for the removal of Hitler, would-be revolutionaries were stalled into inaction by the well-placed fear of reprisals from the Gestapo. In fact, reprisals did come in response to the protests.
With the potential passage of the Patriot Act, Bush (or Cheney, most likely) seeks to establish his modern day Gestapo, a state police force that will imprison anyone who publicly demonstrates against his presidential authority. In Bush's America, patriots do not question authority. Arrest and imprisonment are your only rewards for such behaviour.

How long will the American public remain stultified by Cheetos and American Idol?


Post a Comment

<< Home