Instead of Jason or Freddy Kruger, it's Rechtsanwaltsgeneral John Asscrack in the center of my nightmares...
from the San Francisco Chronicle
Ashcroft -- above the law?
Friday, August 23, 2002
THE CHAIR of a congressional committee should not be forced to issue a subpoena to get the U.S. attorney general to respond to basic questions about the administration of justice in this country.
And Americans who worry about civil liberties should not have to file a lawsuit to determine whether their government is scanning library records or monitoring the e-mail of people who are not suspected of any crime.
But the Justice Department appears unwilling to subject itself to even the most rudimentary levels of accountability over the way it has handled the vast new powers it acquired under the so-called Patriot Act last year.
Extraordinary arrogance calls for extraordinary steps.
So, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., the House Judiciary Committee chair, has threatened to subpoena Attorney General John Ashcroft if he continues to resist requests for the administration to disclose how often it has used its new investigative powers.
"I've never signed a subpoena in my 5 1/2 years as chairman," Sensenbrenner told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I guess there's a first time for everything."
It is important to note that Sensenbrenner is not asking for specifics that could endanger an investigation. He merely wants to know whether the government is using this powers. It is not only a reasonable request in an democracy. It is an essential one.
The American Civil Liberties Union, along with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression,
added their weight to the pressure on Ashcroft this week by filing a Freedom of Information request.
The groups are asking the Justice Department how many times it has:
-- Traced the telephone calls or e-mails of people who are not suspected of any crime.
-- Directed a library, bookstore or newspaper to produce information about materials acquired by an individual.
-- Conducted "sneak and peek" searches in which the targets were not informed until after the fact.
-- Investigated U.S. citizens and other legal residents on the basis of "activities protected by the First Amendment," such as attending a rally or writing a letter to the editor.
As Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers group, said, "When the FBI is given the power to investigate what people are reading, the American people deserve to know how that power is being used."
And Americans should not have to go to court to get an answer.