ASHCROFT: king of hearts
(CH, L, B, CS) (what
do these signs mean?)
longer John Ashcroft is in power, and the more he talks,
the easier it is to understand the motives of Missouri
voters who turfed him out of the Senate in favor of
a dead man. (His opponent had died during the campaign.)
patriotism a bad name
The first USA PATRIOT Act has caused even such staunch
conservatives as Dick Armey and Bob Barr to join the
ACLU. These men cannot be accused of sympathy for liberals
or being "soft" on US security. So what gives?
Well, if you look closely, Ashcroft's arguments for
radically enhanced investigative powers by the FBI and
other federal agents owe more to avoiding criticism
for incompetence than to any real concern for Americans'
safety. In the 1970s, federal guidelines limiting domestic
spying were passed because of FBI Director (and Right
Wing hero) J. Edgar Hoover's abuses of power. Under
Hoover's leadership, the FBI engaged in thousands of
illegal wiretaps, mail openings and burglaries, blackmailed
members of Congress, attacked government critics and
tried to drive Martin Luther King Jr. to suicide.
George W. Bush
referred to as tying the hands of the FBI really meant
requiring it to act in a lawful and civilized manner.
Anyone who has paid close attention knows now that the
FBI and federal government already had the information
they needed to prevent 9-11, had they been competent
enough to use it. Wendy Kaminer writes: according to
Ashcroft, "it wasn't the self-protective, short-sighted,
inefficient culture of the FBI that contributed to the
mishandling of information before September 11, as FBI
whistle-blower Coleen Rowley suggested in her May 21,
2002, letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller. It wasn't
the management style of former Director Louis Freeh,
a Clinton appointee who enjoyed the support of congressional
Republicans. And it wasn't Ashcroft's own blindness
to the threat of terrorism and his neglect of FBI counterterrorism
programs. Instead . . . the bureau was hampered by undue
respect for individual rights." Kaminer's sarcasm
more recent example of lying or incompetence occurred
when Ashcroft was asked by Wisconsin Representative
Mark Green about the FBI's PATRIOT Act authority to
monitor library borrowing records. Ashcroft answered
with an anecdote: "Some may remember that the capture
of the Unabomber was made possible" because "investigators
subpoenaed records from libraries and they developed
an awareness of who had looked at these esoteric treatises."
But, as Ashcroft was reminded by New York City Representative
Jerrold Nadler, the Unabomber was not identified by
the FBI, but turned in by his brother. Ashcroft's logic
and history were equally worthless.
PATRIOT Act has still more problems. The FBI can secretly
search and seize records, books, papers or other personal
belongings of practically anyone, regardless of whether
or not they are a citizen. No warrant is needed nor
do they need to show probable cause. Reuters reports
the FBI "can also impose a lifelong 'gag' order
preventing anyone served with Section 215 orders --
aimed for example at getting information about a suspect's
medical history, reading habits, political activities
or religious affiliation -- from telling someone else
about the investigation." Imagine the precedent
this sets! Bye Bye freedom of speech.
to the bad old days
It didn't take long for the kinds of abuses prevented
by the 1970s legislation to begin returning. Among the
arrests inspired by vague tips immediately following
9/11, the entire late-night staff of a deli were busted
because they were all Middle Eastern immigrants. Ninety
percent of the people arrested in the wake of 9/11 have
been kept in custody for 90 days or more.
abusive conduct by Ashcroft's office and the FBI has
been strongly criticized in a 198 page report by the
Justice Department's own independent Office of Inspector
General. (The only reason this office exists is because
some legislators didn't trust Ashcroft to apply the
law wisely. They were right.) The report states that
Ashcroft should have changed his policies regarding
the holding of the detainees without bail once the random
nature of the arrests came to light. That would have
required Ashcroft'is giving up a little power, and he
seems as addicted to power as a junkie is to heroin.
do Ashcroft and his department appear able to police
themselves. For example, in one case the Inspector General's
office obtained a statement from an officer admitting
that he had verbally abused a Muslim inmate and had
been "less than completely candid" with internal
investigators from the federal Bureau of Prisons. The
Inspector General's office said it also obtained a sworn
statement from another prison worker confirming the
inmates' accusations. When the Bureau of Prisons handled
the earlier investigation of the officer, it closed
its inquiry and cleared the officer, without anyone
even interviewing the inmates or the officer. Corruption?
Incompetence? Or both?
terms of the Justice Departments' integrity, even more
disturbing is the Inspector General's report that detainees
innocent of any hostility to our country were physically
and verbally abused in New York's Metropolitan Correction
Center, although their only crime amounted to overstaying
their visas. Jail videotapes, which could have condemned
the perpetrators of these acts, were destroyed before
investigators reached them. Again, corruption? Incompetence?
New York Times
asked about why so many people had been detained for
excessive periods of time, the most frequent answer
Ashcroft presented before the June 5 House Judiciary
Committee Hearing, was-"They were all in the U.S.
illegally." This justifies holding them for weeks,
denying them access to an attorney, and keeping their
names from their family?
is a man who apparently lacks the basic capacity to
distinguish between serious and minor crimes. His obsessive
attacks on states whose citizens approved medical marijuana
or death with dignity acts further demonstrates this
lack of even modest common sense was demonstrated again
in September, 2003. Ashcroft ordered all federal prosecutors
to always go for the stiffest penalty when making
a case. Not only did he thereby show no confidence in
his own prosecutors' judgment, he also threatens to
overwhelm the federal court system with cases since
there is no longer any reason for a defendant to plead
guilty to reduced charges or penalties instead of facing
a jury. Instances of Ashcroft's poor judgment adversely
affecting justice and our constitutional freedom could
be expanded into a book. We could examine his TIPS program,
trying to create a nation of spies checking their neighbors
out for suspicious activity. We could explore Ashcroft's
urging federal agencies to find reasons to not respond
to Freedom of Information Act requests. We could look
at his efforts to allow religious groups to proselytize
at public schools, where students have to attend.
should give pause to Americans who would trust men like
these with even more power. They have no compunction
about tampering with evidence to cover their butts,
have demonstrated contempt for the legal votes of American
citizens, and evidenced no competence to actually save
us from terrorist atrocities.
Few men have paraded their piousness around as much
as has John Ashcroft. If the Devil quotes scripture,
we may well have a good example of Satan at work here.
Are our words harsh? Consider the following:
Alien Tort Claims Act is a law that allows people injured
by serious violations of international laws outside
the US to seek justice in the courts of the US if the
injuring party is based in the US. John Doe I vs. Unocal
Corp. is a case where the plaintiffs are "Burmese
Villagers who claim that they were subjected to forced
labor, murder, rape and torture during the construction
of a gas pipeline through their country. Soldiers allegedly
committed these abuses while providing security and
other services for Unocal's pipeline project."
and its French partner Total, are accused of paying
the Burmese military regime to employ force to use slave
labor and child labor. Joanne Mariner, a Human Rights
Watch attorney, cites Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International reports detailing such atrocities. John
Ashcroft's minions at the Justice Department are supporting
Unacol's appeal after a panel of the U.S. District Court
of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found evidence that
Unacol did pay the Burmese regime to continue its atrocious
The Justice Department is not trying to defend Unocal
on the basis that the villagers' claims are wrong. No.
They are attacking the entire concept that companies
such as Unocal can be brought to justice, despite the
law's long history in this country. Ashcroft's prefers
defending large corporations rather than attacking slavery
and forced child labor. This is yet another example
of the Bush administrations compassion for corporations
and contempt for people who are not well connected.
But it is a particularly squalid one for people prattling
that they are Christians. On this basis alone the man
should be ashamed to hold his head up in decent company.
reports "No previous administration has ever challenged
the legitimacy of ATCA suits against gross human rights
abusers." Read the CNN report below. If you have
a heart you cannot help but be revolted:
for Americans and for the constitution
Ashcroft's personal contempt for the principle underlying
a democracy became even more clear in his recent nationwide
tour defending the PATRIOT Act. Average Americans were
barred from his speeches, even though our taxes pay
his bills. In Boston 1,200 citizens gathered to protest
the man's policies while he spoke to 150 privileged
law enforcement officials. The only media representatives
allowed to question the Attorney General were local
TV reporters. They got three minutes each. No other
journalists are allowed. The reason is pretty clear.
TV is great for sound bites and bad for genuine news
coverage. Real coverage might expose the emptiness of
the Attorney General's rhetoric and the dishonesty of
his reasoning. It couldn't be risked.
Rose wrote in the Boston Globe at the time: "While
Ashcroft was telling Boston's police how the government
was using its powers under the Patriot Act, he didn't
mention a January 2003 report from the General Accounting
Office revealing three-quarters of the "international
terrorism convictions" for 2002 had been wrongly
classified as terrorist crimes. They were, instead,
routine immigration violations.
did he mention a March 2, 2003, Washington Post report
that out of 62 cases of "international terrorism"
that New Jersey prosecutors claimed to have handled,
all but two involved Middle Eastern men who were accused
of paying other people to take their English exams and
who were not linked to terrorism in any way."
is John Ashcroft's integrity.
the Boston Globe story
day after Ashcroft's Boston speech, George
Bush announced he would ask Congress for three
new laws: expanding the federal death penalty, expanding
the federal right to use subpoenas without judicial
approval, and the right to deny bail to people accused
of "terrorism" related crimes.
thinking about the wisdom, or lack thereof, in Bush's
little gift to Ashcroft, we should remember their loose
definition of what constitutes "terrorism."
Under the PATRIOT Act, a person commits the crime of
domestic terrorism if within the U.S. they engage in
activity that involves acts dangerous to human life
that violate the laws of the United States or any State
and appear to be intended: (i) to intimidate or coerce
a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy
of a government by intimidation or coercion, or (iii)
to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction,
assassination or kidnapping.
definition is frighteningly broad. What constitutes
"intimidation"? Are loud demonstrators intimidating?
Some would find them so. And what constitutes "dangerous
to human life?" Tree sitting could be dangerous
to human life. So could sitting down in a road. The
ACLU warns that Operation Rescue and the World Trade
Organization protesters have engaged in activities that
could subject them to prosecution as terrorists.
ACLU warns that once the government decides that conduct
is "'domestic terrorism,' law enforcement agents
have the authority to charge anyone who provides assistance
to that person, even if the assistance is an act as
minor as providing lodging. The government could prosecute
the person who provided their home under a new crime
of "harboring" a terrorist (Section 803) or
for 'providing material support' to 'terrorists.'"
9-11 there were already three definitions of terrorism
in federal law - international terrorism, terrorism
transcending national borders and federal terrorism.
The September 11th attacks broke every one of these
laws. A looser definition for terrorism has nothing
to do with the crime. Why do Ashcroft and Bush need
to broaden the definition? There is no good reason,
and the bad reasons are frightening.
Ashcroft's secret baby, the draft USA PATRIOT Act II
allowed a person to be arrested and held indefinitely,
and stripped of his or her US citizenship. Under such
circumstances, Americans seized by the government have
no right of representation in a court, and the public
has no right to any information regarding their legal
fate. The only individual with the authority to restore
legal rights or citizenship status to such a person
is the President of the US. Go to our George
Bush link to see if this makes you feel safer.
is not something the government bestows upon us unless
we are immigrants. We are born citizens, and our citizenship
is ours alone. Ashcroft's ideal effectively underminines
the spirit embodied by the founding documents of this
nation. Good bye Declaration of Independence, John Ashcroft
taking away our citizenship necessary? Virginia Postrel
posts a perceptive comment from one of her correspondents:
was no problem prosecuting, convicting, and executing
terrorist U.S. citizen Timothy McVeigh and
there is no need to strip citizenship from anybody,
except: 1) to hide incompetent police work, or 2)
to deport 'em to countries which might torture 'em.
about it. What OTHER reason could there be for the
Attorney General to seek authority to take citizenship
away from somebody who acquired it lawfully (for instance,
by being born here) and doesn't want to give it up?
Although most Americans are aware of the infringement
of individual privacy rights by these hastily imposed
provisions, very few are aware of the extra-constitutional
areas that the draft PATRIOT Act II proposed before
it was exposed through a leak, and sent to a well deserved
oblivion. That is, oblivion until the powers that be
could rename it. Many of its worst provisions have re-emerged
as the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003."
Section 301-306 of the proposal authorizes the creation
of a DNA database on "suspected terrorists."
The definition of "suspected terrorists" is
again expansive enough to include anyone suspected of
association with suspected terrorist groups. In the
hands of an organization with such little obligation
to accountability, there is no telling that such information
would not be used for pre-emptive incrimination. Our
newspapers are full of stories about overzealous prosecutors
bending the evidence to win convictions and fighting
against allowing DNA testing of those already convicted.
to Ashcroft, the government should be able to detain
any citizen indefinitely, without access to an attorney,
without being charged, without evidence being required
and without having to justify its actions in a court
of law. When many of us were in grade school, this is
what we were taught tyrannies did, and the US was different.
These powers would horrify the Founding fathers. Even
George III couldn't do it.
this is being dressed up as the VICTORY" Act. Already
we are hit with "mission creep" as the power
hogs at the Dept. of Justice seek to abandon the sunset
clause in the original Patriot Act, that would have
required Congress to reenact it in 2005. They are also
seeking to expand its coverage to the "War on Drugs."
Rather than dealing with real terrorism, it targets
drug dealing as a "terrorist" threat. Another
chunk of our Bill of Rights is to be sacrificed to Ashcroft's
love of power.
"Patriot II" the people arrested at the all
night deli could have simply "disappeared."
We would know as much about their fate as Russians did
about those who disappeared under the Soviets.
that 160 cities and three states have come out opposing
the unconstitutional excesses of the "PATRIOT"
Act, the chances for this monstrosity to pass are slim.
Unless, of course, the incompetence that gave us 9-11
gives us another terrorist atrocity against Americans.
In such a case we may be sure that the incompetents
who failed to protect us will again complain their hands
are tied, and that they need still more power.