Claiming that "the objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved," US Attorney General John Ashcroft bid farewell to the Department of Justice Tuesday to set out toward "other challenging horizons" not yet specified.
Ashcroft, who was nominated by President Bush for the top job at Justice after losing his Senate seat to a dead man, has drawn fierce criticism from liberals and conservatives alike.
His legacy includes boosterism of the so-called Patriot Act, a longstanding federal law-enforcement wish list of legal shortcuts that the atrocities of 11 September 2001 made it impossible for Congress to reject; covering the tits on a prominent bronze statue of Justice that always made him twitch; gleeful promotion of capital punishment; rounding up thousands of suspected terrorists, and failing to prosecute any of them successfully; advising the military that torture is fine so long as no one gets caught, and that the Geneva Conventions don't always apply; advising the federal bureaucracy that DoJ would help it fight any FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request from nosy reporters; making a further mockery of the Act of Posse Comitatus by actively encouraging military outfits to participate in terror-related law enforcement; wildly overplaying his hand whenever some small-fry terror suspect like Jose Padilla popped up on the radar; warning the public that criticizing the so-called Patriot Act is an act of disloyalty verging on treason; inventing an arbitrary class of person called an "enemy combatant" so that writs of habeas corpus can be ignored at the government's convenience; prosecuting a crusade against pornography, apparently another deadly threat to US national security; and turning out the DoJ as a sort of "copyright 911" hotline so that the public might pay the bills of companies that wish to defend their intellectual property.
Clearly, he will be missed.
Succession rumors center on former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, now a rich corporate lawyer for Pepsi who could become America's first black Attorney General, a smooth political move for the Bushies (especially in conjunction with "Chief Justice" Clarence Thomas); White House General Counsel Alberto Gonzales, a personal favorite of the President; former Solicitor General Theodore Olson; and former Republican Montana Governor Marc Racicot. ®
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