August 20, 2003 4:35 PM PDT

Ashcroft stumps for Patriot Act

Attorney General John Ashcroft has embarked on an unusual nationwide tour to drum up support for the controversial USA Patriot Act.

Enacted six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, the law permits police to monitor e-mail and Web activity without a judge's approval in some circumstances, to obtain court orders in order to conduct secret searches of Americans' homes and offices and to browse medical and financial records without showing evidence of a crime.

Ashcroft's USA Patriot Act tour began on Wednesday morning with a speech to police at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and a scheduled speech in Cleveland in the afternoon. On Thursday, he'll speak to police in Des Moines, Iowa, and Detroit.

The U.S. Department of Justice also has created a Web site that is designed to reassure Americans that the law is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.

On Tuesday, in a kind of warm-up speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Ashcroft stressed that the USA Patriot Act helped federal and local police deal with newer technologies. "For example, where before, investigators were forced to get a different wiretap order every time a suspect changed cell phones, now, investigators can get a single wiretap that applies to the suspect and various phones he uses."

"Thanks to the Patriot Act, we may deploy technology to track and develop cases against alleged terrorist operatives," Ashcroft said of the law, which has led to a groundswell of opposition from liberals, libertarians, and conservatives.

Laura Murphy, head of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington, D.C., office, said in a statement: "Is the attorney general's road show political in nature, designed to shore up flagging conservative support in swing states, and is it prudent to have the attorney general give up his official duties to hit the huskings for an unpopular piece of legislation? Safety and freedom will both suffer if the answers are what some expect."

There is some evidence that Congress is growing unhappy with the USA Patriot Act, which was rushed through the legislature. By a 309-to-118 vote last month, the U.S. House of Representatives dismissed the entreaties of the Justice Department and blocked the part of the law that permitted police to seek a court order that let them surreptitiously enter a home or business. The amendment to the Commerce, Justice and State spending bill would not repeal the "secret search" law but instead would deny federal agencies any funds that could be used in order to take advantage of it.

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This appears to be a shameless effort to take advantage of a crisis, to enact the kind of laws which John Ashcroft could only dream of, before 9/11. I am from Missouri and have followed his career from the time he was a prosecuting attorney, governor of Misssouri, U.S. Senator from Missouri, until he was appointed U.S. Attorney General. I am a fellow Republican and even voted for John, back in the eighties. While I respect his sterling resume, he is so far to the right, that it's scary. He locked up so many people in Missouri, that he ended up exporting them to a for-profit prison, in Texas. This prison was notorius for mistreatment of it's inmates. He's what I would consider a good man, but to such an extreme, that giving him too much power is dangerous. Every man needs his check, so to speak, because only God is good and just. His arguments for secret search powers appear very specious, as this is how he would have it, even if 9/11 had never occcurred. He does not represent, what I would call the typical American, in his views. I see a brutal side of this man, which encourages angry, gritted-teeth justice, without regard for mercy. He is by the book and he certainly would like to be the one to write the book. Giving John Ashcroft a position of carte blanc authority is unwise. He spreads fear and seems to be a "zero-tolerant," "get tough," populist icon from another era. It frightens me to think of how our ultimate judge, the Lord our God, will deal with him, since our Lord has clearly stated that He will show mercy to those who show mercy and deny mercy to those who have denied others that mercy. I have no hate for him, so I pray that he realize that every one of us, besides Jesus, has sinnned and made mistakes in their life. I don't know what his mistakes are, but they exist, because the Bible says they do. I know that they exist in myself and I would never be so harsh and one-sided, because I fear the Lord. I'm sure John does too, but I wonder if he ever takes a serious morasl inventory of himself. Everyone should do this, every night, as they lay in their bed, lest the Lord humble him in the same manner as he has treated offenders, even minor offenders. I can understand why he was appointed, in order to scare any potential terrorist, but as I said before, this is specious reasoning, because I believe that he would use such unbridled power against anyone (Amerincans) who did not measure up to his impossible standards of justice. Remember, too, any weapon, including policy and law, will eventually fall into the hands of the opposing party. Creating gulags, "zero-tolerance" ideology and so forth can backfire, as the next Administration could envoke similar fanatical zeal, to push their pet issues and priorities. He has set a precident, which could lead to a terrifying society, if say a socialist or left-wingnut were to also take carte blanc aim at people on the right... Just imagine a "zero-tolerant" man who started using capital punishment in a liberal manner, to persecute people of faith, or demanded that churches pay taxes, or shut their doors, or that privacy in general, become extinct. John is a good man, but he needs counter-balance and someone to keep his perspective in check. It took many good men to write our Constitution and many more have suffered and died, defending it. Letting one man, become a czar is very dangerous. In the Senate he had enough opposition to keep him "honest," but putting him at the top of our justice system, could easily change the very character of America, especially with respect for freedom. Freedom is so important and I don't see an appreciation for it, or an appreciation for mercy, or rehabilitaion vs. punishment, or any form of redemption. Remember, the greatest accuser that man has to suffer, is Satan. I'm sure he would laugh at such a comparison and immediately show his righteous credentials, but what of the poor man who should err, while underneath a loosed accuser, known more for his harsh punishment, than having a tender heart, or understanding (of other people, not just his own flavor, or culture)? Will John be praised by our Lord, or broken completely? I for one, would rather err on the side of mercy, than to err on the side of tyranny and oppression. I fear God, so I do not fear John, but many others don't have the same feelings, or faith, or cultural background and woe be unto them, should they fall into the hands of John Ashcroft. As long as he understands (thoroughly), that God almighty will hold him to the same standards, that he has held others and his moral inventory is in check, then woe be unto John Ashcroft. He does not seem like a happy man.
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