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  • Friday, November 12, 2004


    Exit Ashcroft, Enter Gonzales

    The legacy of Ashcroft:
    Ashcroft's tenure at Justice ended with a fizzle. After fashioning the 350 pages of the notorious Patriot Act (which effectively eviscerates the 4th amendment), he devoted himself to the various chores of harassing terminally ill patients protected under Oregon state law (trying to end their lives in dignity), disrupting the sale of medical marijuana to cancer patients, and ferreting through the medical records of women who had legal abortions. No effort was ever spared to ensure that his narrow view of personal morality was rigorously applied like a tourniquet. But these are just minor details in the broader Ashcroft legacy. The real meat-and-potatoes of his four year tenure was his Clansman-like zeal in rounding-up and persecuting innocent Muslims; 5000, give or take a few. It was a task for which the autocratic General was particularly well suited. As proficient as Ashcroft was in detaining terror suspects on any imaginable pretext (his favorites were material witness, immigration violations or, the favorite, no charges at all) he was much less adept at getting convictions. As David Cole of the Nation magazine points out, of the 5000 suspects Ashcroft arrested not one has been convicted of terrorism. The only conviction obtained having been thrown out by a federal judge in Detroit. The rest were settled through plea agreements; deals that were struck through coercion and threats of being sent to Guantanamo if defendants refused to cooperate. The presumption of innocence was as breezily discarded as was most of the Bill of Rights. The result is an unblemished record of failure that will be filed in the national archive as the biggest flop in American history.

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