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09/28/2003 Archived Entry: "Editorial: Ashcroft is a false patriot"


A wise attorney general would have responded to the clear and consistent outcry by asking whether the Patriot Act might need to be repaired. But John Ashcroft has never been accused of being wise. So, instead of recognizing the complaints about the Patriot Act for what they are - sincere expressions of concern for civil liberties - Ashcroft has set out on a pricey public relations tour to promote the notion that Americans should trade basic freedoms for a dubious measure of security.

Last week, the tour brought Ashcroft to Milwaukee, where he almost came into contact with some of those angry citizens. That would have been a rare development, since Ashcroft's appearances are behind-closed-doors affairs in front of audiences selected for their willingness to applaud on cue - rather than question the attorney general. In Milwaukee, however, a group of Patriot Act critics got close enough to the War Memorial building where Ashcroft was speaking to draw the attention of press photographers traveling with the attorney general. But officials quickly shut the blinds to prevent anything akin to a debate.

"If the intent was to marginalize people who disagree with the attorney general, they certainly did that," said Chris Ahmuty, Wisconsin director of the ACLU. "The way they're going about this indicates they're on the defensive. When the attorney general essentially sneaks into town to address a select group of people, it doesn't raise anybody's confidence."


Fixing the Patriot Act sounds, on the surface, like a good idea. But a better step would be to simply cancel it - and to cancel Ashcroft. Get rid of a bad law and a bad attorney general and allow a more rational and responsible Justice Department to work with Congress to draft meaningful anti-terrorism legislation, rather than Ashcroft's assault on the Constitution.

Posted by Claire @ 01:46 PM CST

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