Ashcroft: no time for questions

The United States Bill of Rights

While assembling his coffee this morning after spotting the day's headlines, the Barry asked, "So which is it?" Are they saying we're safe against terrorists under the firm and mighty hand of Bushie, or are we still in great danger, perhaps greater than ever?

Some information about John Ashcroft's secret meeting yesterday in New York with the law biggies is now leaking through the dirty or bloody hands of his suited and uniformed guests and it sounds like attorney Mr. general, for one, just doesn't know the answer.

The delicious sarcasm of the NYTimes article begins with the headline, "Terror Lesson Fading for Some, Ashcroft Says in Manhattan." It seems we need to be made more frightened than we already are, so he's on it.

The attorney general made clear that he believes the Justice Department's antiterrorism initiatives are fully in sync with the moral imperatives of God and country — and that those who disagree may have failed to absorb the lessons of Sept. 11.

"Just two years have passed," Mr. Ashcroft said, "but already it has become difficult for some Americans to recall the shock, anger, grief and anguish of that day."

Referring to expanded abilities of antiterrorism investigators to conduct wiretaps, delay notification of a search warrant and share intelligence among agencies, he said that rolling back the use of such tools "will increase the risk that more Americans will die."

[Today in Washington Bush has already begun to perform his own part in the charade intended ultimately to greatly expand the current "Patriot" Act. Speaking at the FBI Accademy in Virginia, he called for several changes to federal law in order to "untie the hands of law enforcement officials so they can fight and win terror."]

Newsday's acount of Ashcroft's has its own charms. Their reporter makes it clear that the administration's chief justice officer believes that we must restrict our liberties in order to preserve our liberties.

"It is critical for Americans to understand that the Patriot Act is vital to our success in the war against terrorism," said Ashcroft, speaking at Federal Hall on Wall Street. "The painful lesson of Sept. 11 remains the touchstone - reminding us of the government's response to protect the lives and preserve the liberty of the American people."
But by all accounts, including its own, this government protects neither lives nor liberty.

Now read a comment or two about the "style" of yesterday's event in that hallowed hall. Newsday:

Addressing an audience that included uniformed federal, state and local law enforcement officials, U.S. Attorneys and local district attorneys, Ashcroft thanked the officials for their anti-terror efforts, inviting the audience to join him in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem as the event began. He is on a 16-city tour to champion the act.

. . . .

Ashcroft has been known to infuse his speeches with religious imagery, and yesterday was no exception as he summed up his mandate to secure citizens from terror:

"We accept this trust in the belief that liberty is the greatest gift of our creator, in the belief that the liberty must be protected. And in the belief that as long as there is a United States of America - liberty and freedom must not, shall not perish from this earth."

He was greeted with a standing ovation.

And from the Times:
Mr. Ashcroft's impassioned appeals reflect concerns in the Justice Department about a growing bipartisan wariness in Congress about aspects of the law that some believe infringe on civil liberties. Yet the attorney general has made little effort to engage skeptics directly, sticking instead to a circuit of invitation-only speeches to law enforcement personnel.

Yesterday was no exception.

Under heavy security, Mr. Ashcroft addressed a muted audience of dark-suited prosecutors and other officials occupying a semicircle of folding chairs in the rotunda, while behind him on a stage sat about two dozen uniformed police officers. A large blue backdrop lined with American flags was erected against the towering columns, temporarily masking a display illustrating the history of the site [where The Bill of Rights was both written and adopted].

Spectators were banned from the rotunda balcony, whose ornate iron railing features about 50 figures of a topless woman gazing down on the proceedings below (Mr. Ashcroft famously had a half-naked statue of the Spirit of Justice covered up in his building, but the Greek Revival maidens in Federal Hall appear to have escaped notice.)

Mr. Ashcroft took no questions . . . .

No point. Tin ears.

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Published on September 10, 2003 4:38 PM.

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