THE GRAND INQUISITORS

By David Cole

Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice
by John Ashcroft

General Ashcroft: Attorney at War
by Nancy V. Baker

Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror
by Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr. and Aziz Z. Huq

It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush
by Joe Conason

In the days and weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, each time Attorney General John Ashcroft made a public appearance he would preface his remarks by announcing how many 'suspected terrorists'— many of them foreign nationals picked up on minor immigration violations—the government had detained. By early November, just seven weeks after the attacks, the official number stood at 1,182. Ashcroft's message was clear. The Justice Department had matters under control, and was preventing another attack by keeping more than one thousand suspects off the streets.

More from the article: None of the 80,000 men called in for Special Registration or the more than 5,000 foreign nationals the administration admitted to detaining in the first two years after September 11 stands convicted of a terrorist crime today. And the FBI has yet to uncover a single al-Qaeda cell in the United States.

...the number of wiretap and search warrants granted annually under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doubled after passage of the Patriot Act. And from 2003 to 2005, the FBI issued more than 140,000 "national security letters," administrative subpoenas authorized by the Patriot Act that require no judicial approval, that demand the disclosure of phone, e-mail, financial, and other records, and that forbid people served with such letters from talking about them with anyone. These numbers suggest that the government's focus has been a lot less targeted than Ashcroft snidely suggested. In July 2005, one "national security letter" went to a librarians' consortium in Connecticut, and we know about that one only because the consortium violated the accompanying gag order by approaching an ACLU lawyer to ask about its constitutional rights. (A federal court subsequently held unconstitutional the gag order sent with national security letters.)

Originally by David Cole from The New York Review of Books on July 19, 2007, 10:00am

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  • Tom Usher

    About Tom Usher

    Employment: 2008 - present, website developer and writer. 2015 - present, insurance broker. Education: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Science in Political Science. City University of Seattle, graduate studies in Public Administration. Volunteerism: 2007 - present, president of the Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project.
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