John Ashcroft is a big fat lying idiot

In comments to my previous post, the issue of Ashcroft’s badness is briefly discussed. Conrad commented that (paraphrase) Janet Reno is more despicable because of the deaths at Waco, but I don’t buy the comparison. Waco was an awful mistake and a tragedy, but it did not typify Reno’s performance or her concept of what being attorney general means. Ashcroft is consistently dreadful on a daily basis. And dangerous, too.

There are few members of the Bush team that I truly “hate.” Hate is a strong word and if you throw it around a lot it loses its power. I reserve it for the very worst, like Ashcroft.

There was good reason so many of us feared the appointment of a backward-thinking pentecostal to oversee the Justice Department. These fears have been justified many times over, and Paul Krugman today summarizes them in a column that’s sure to raise lots of eyebrows. It’s brilliant, and I urge you to read the entire thing.

Travesty of Justice

No question: John Ashcroft is the worst attorney general in history.

For this column, let’s just focus on Mr. Ashcroft’s role in the fight against terror. Before 9/11 he was aggressively uninterested in the terrorist threat. He didn’t even mention counterterrorism in a May 2001 memo outlining strategic priorities for the Justice Department. When the 9/11 commission asked him why, he responded by blaming the Clinton administration, with a personal attack on one of the commission members thrown in for good measure.

We can’t tell directly whether Mr. Ashcroft’s post-9/11 policies are protecting the United States from terrorist attacks. But a number of pieces of evidence suggest otherwise.

First, there’s the absence of any major successful prosecutions. The one set of convictions that seemed fairly significant — that of the “Detroit 3” — appears to be collapsing over accusations of prosecutorial misconduct. (The lead prosecutor has filed a whistle-blower suit against Mr. Ashcroft, accusing him of botching the case. The Justice Department, in turn, has opened investigations against the prosecutor. Payback? I report; you decide.)

Then there is the lack of any major captures. Somewhere, the anthrax terrorist is laughing. But the Justice Department, you’ll be happy to know, is trying to determine whether it can file bioterrorism charges against a Buffalo art professor whose work includes harmless bacteria in petri dishes.

Perhaps most telling is the way Mr. Ashcroft responds to criticism of his performance. His first move is always to withhold the evidence. Then he tries to change the subject by making a dramatic announcement of a terrorist threat.

For an example of how Mr. Ashcroft shuts down public examination, consider the case of Sibel Edmonds, a former F.B.I. translator who says that the agency’s language division is riddled with incompetence and corruption, and that the bureau missed critical terrorist warnings. In 2002 she gave closed-door Congressional testimony; Senator Charles Grassley described her as “very credible . . . because people within the F.B.I. have corroborated a lot of her story.”

But the Justice Department has invoked the rarely used “state secrets privilege” to prevent Ms. Edmonds from providing evidence. And last month the department retroactively classified two-year-old testimony by F.B.I. officials, which was presumably what Mr. Grassley referred to.

For an example of changing the subject, consider the origins of the Jose Padilla case. There was no publicity when Mr. Padilla was arrested in May 2002. But on June 6, 2002, Coleen Rowley gave devastating Congressional testimony about failures at the F.B.I. (which reports to Mr. Ashcroft) before 9/11. Four days later, Mr. Ashcroft held a dramatic press conference and announced that Mr. Padilla was involved in a terrifying plot. Instead of featuring Ms. Rowley, news magazine covers ended up featuring the “dirty bomber” who Mr. Ashcroft said was plotting to kill thousands with deadly radiation.

Since then Mr. Padilla has been held as an “enemy combatant” with no legal rights. But Newsweek reports that “administration officials now concede that the principal claim they have been making about Padilla ever since his detention — that he was dispatched to the United States for the specific purpose of setting off a radiological `dirty bomb’ — has turned out to be wrong and most likely can never be used in court.”

But most important is the memo. Last week Mr. Ashcroft, apparently in contempt of Congress, refused to release a memo on torture his department prepared for the White House almost two years ago. Fortunately, his stonewalling didn’t work: The Washington Post has acquired a copy of the memo and put it on its Web site.

Much of the memo is concerned with defining torture down: if the pain inflicted on a prisoner is less than the pain that accompanies “serious physical injury, such as organ failure,” it’s not torture. Anyway, the memo declares that the federal law against torture doesn’t apply to interrogations of enemy combatants “pursuant to [the president’s] commander-in-chief authority.” In other words, the president is above the law.

The memo came out late Sunday. Mr. Ashcroft called a press conference yesterday — to announce an indictment against a man accused of plotting to blow up a shopping mall in Ohio. The timing was, I’m sure, purely coincidental.

The Discussion: 7 Comments

It’s perhaps rather impolite (and beyond ‘fair use’) to repost the entire article…

June 15, 2004 @ 5:43 pm | Comment

I rarely do it, but I wanted it here for reference. If I just link to it, it can’t be accessed after a couple of weeks.

June 15, 2004 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

If you do searches on Google News, you can sometimes find alternate hyperlinks for the articles:

International Herald Tribune

Google partner link

June 15, 2004 @ 9:27 pm | Comment

Instead of picking at knats, it seems to me that Richard has done a service to spread Krugman’s article on Ashcroft And Krugman has done a tremendous favor to the US to call down Ashcroft for what he is. He may say he is religious like the preachers in Salem who supported the witch hunts or any other person who finds self-justification in punishment for the sake of punishment, using his power for terrorizing under the cover of his religiosity. Poor bastard, I wonder if he is thinking this will help him stay out of Hades?

June 15, 2004 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

Oh Conrad, there you go again. *lol*

Ashcroft as the worst? Hmmm… I’m not even sure if he is the worst in the last 30 years. Ed Meese under Reagan had as many or more lapses in his legal ethics and far more in his moral ethics. Which is why he’s now a big whig at the Heritage Foundation.

June 16, 2004 @ 3:01 am | Comment

Tom, he is the worst. Ed Meese was corrupt. He profited from his power. But that’s not “dangerous” in the Ashcroftian sense. Ashcroft is danger ous not because he is corrupt but becuase he is righteous. He is on a mission, and if he has to send agents into hospitals to make sure women aren’t getting abortions too late in the term, then so be it. If he has to throw habeas corpus out the window because he “knows” people are terrorists (despite a serious lack of evidence) then so be it.

Ed Meese enriched himself but to the best of my knowledge hurt no one in the process. Ashcroft plays a much more reckless and irresponsible game, calling press conferences and implying that al Qaeda may be planning terrorist strikes to disrupt the elections becuase Osama wants Kerry to win over Bush. Smearing Jamie Gorelick in front of the world. No, if there’s a more dangerous attorney general in our history, I don’t know of it.

June 16, 2004 @ 9:28 am | Comment

Little Johnny Ashcroft by Madmax

Little Johnny Ashcroft, so self assured
His self-righteous policies stink like a turd
He’s changing the law
in exciting new ways!
To persecute imigrants, women and gays
Johnny is watching, so watch what you say!!
Have your neighbor’s neighbor tell him I’m OK

But don’t stop there Johnny
There’s so much to do!!
Crush ALL the freedom
Before it hurts you
I’d better be careful
‘Cause Johnny might hear
He’s got a wiretap stuck in his ear

Habeas Corpus
-A thing of the past!
Lock em up Johnny
Lock em up fast!!
I’m not a terrorist, don’t put me in jail
without any representation or bail !!

With what am I charged?
What day is my trial?
Can I have an attorney?
Can I look at my file?
J. Edgar Hoover’s alive and quite well
Back from a well earned vacation in Hell

June 28, 2004 @ 9:51 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.