From the Wash Post account of Attorney General John Ashcroft's recent defense of the PATRIOT ACT:

According to a 29-page report to Congress released by Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, Justice Department terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against 310 people and have yielded 179 convictions or guilty pleas. The report says the Patriot Act was central to those cases.

The report also chronicles numerous instances in which the law has been used in traditional criminal investigations, from child pornography prosecutions to the rescue of a kidnapped 88-year-old woman.

Whole thing here.

Go here for the Justice Department's report. I've yet to read the whole report carefully–I've only barely skimmed it so far–so I can't begin to evaluate its main claim that absent PATRIOT law enforcement would not have been able to stop X number of terrorist actions.

But one odd thing pops out even on a cursory glance. Justice is essentially a pushing the old orange juice line–"It's not just for breakfast anymore." Hence, the department proudly points out that beyond all the supposedly invalauble help PATRIOT has been in foiling terrorist acts since 9/11, "it has been extremely helpful in combating the sexual abuse of children" (pg. 19) and "has improved the speed of obtaining search warrants for electronic mail…[in non-terrorism-related] time-sensitive criminal investigations" (pgs. 20-21).

While such claims are clearly intended to buttress support for the controversial law (parts of which are increasingly under fire in Congress), they make me sweat more than a little bit. One great fear when PATRIOT was passed was that no one really knew how far-reaching it was. Certainly, it should strike people as odd that a supposedly conservative administration is crowing about how a law passed for one specific function is being more widely applied. Wasn't it conservatives, after all, who got all pissed (rightly, I might add), when RICO laws were applied to, say, anti-abortion groups rather than the organized crime syndicates for which they were intended?

NEXT: Offshore Lore Revisited

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  1. Why don’t we just make it a federal crime to get away with a crime, any crime. We could create a law that requires people with guilty consciences to report to the FBI. Of course, even a law that broad would eventually get blown out of all proportion. We would have people turning themselves in for things they’ve only thought about or wanted to do. But hey, thought crime and future crime is where we’re headed anyway, so …

  2. Warren you are so right, There is this one conservative guy who works on my floor: I ran into him in the parking lot this morning, he tried to drag me down the street and push me into an open manhole. Good thing I explained my civil rights to him, or he might have raped me as well.

  3. I don’t know why you should think so. Conservatives believe that anyone who is different than themselves, deserves to be thrown into a hole, where they will be raped and tortured, and forgotten about.

    Really? By that standard there are only a handful of conservatives in the entire country, and most of them are in jail. Which makes me wonder — who the heck is voting Republican? It must be those “swing voters” you hear about all the time.

  4. The term “conservative” has been polluted by association with those who consider themselves “cultural conservatives”. There’s too many flavors of conservative soup these days for the term to have any meaning.

    Nick, the administration is Republican, not conservative. Besides, I thought they were supposed to be “compassionate conservative”, which I guess in some circles is the same as “supposedly conservative”.

  5. to digress a bit…

    I was under the impression that ‘conservative’ originally referred to those pre-industrial landowning aristocrats who opposed the liberal movements of the 19th century.

  6. Back in May, H&R ran a thread about the Justice Department forcing the ACLU to censor information similar to that contained in Ashcroft?s report off of the ACLU’s website. Does the presentation of Ashcroft?s report mean that the court’s gag order is no longer in effect, or does the gag order only apply to the ACLU? I just checked the ACLU website, and I don’t yet see the details of their case; if the court order had been lifted, I certainly would have expected to find the ACLU crowing by now. So isn’t Mr. Ashcroft’s report prohibited either under the Patriot Act itself or under the court order issued in the ACLU?s case challenging the Patriot Act?

    Any law or court order that prohibits people from speaking out about how a particular piece of legislation is being implemented is a bad law or court order in my opinion, but, in all fairness, if the ACLU is prohibited from publicizing information about government abuse in their fight against the Patriot Act, then the Justice Department shouldn’t be allowed to publicize information about how well the Patriot Act is being implemented either. I don?t think that?s the way it should be, but if that?s the way it is, then, like a dog who shit on the carpet, someone should take this opportunity to rub Ashcroft?s face in the more stupid aspects of the Patriot Act.

  7. Michael,

    True, but here in America in the 1960’s William F. Buckley and James J. Kilpatrick had a type of debate (throughout the decade)regarding the true nature of conservatism. Buckley was a “Wall Street” conservative who favored business and Kilpatric disparaged Buckley by saying that a true conservative is simply one who moves forward not by walking, but by dragging one foot behind him.

    Clearly, the nature of conservatism has changed, but I agree with Warren; they want to see people like me rot in Attica for 20 years.

  8. What trainwreck said.

    Warren, I’m a conservative and I think that anyone, especially government officials, who would condone people being “thrown into a hole, where they will be raped and tortured, and forgotten about”, should be shunned. Also, when are we going to get the full story about, and punish those responsible, for these crimes:

  9. Patriot Act “application creep” was something that we were assured we did not have to worry about but now the government is bragging about it!

    There is a lesson here. Where ever and when ever it’s politically possible, government power should be reduced because government cannot be trusted.

  10. I wonder if this is what they mean by a successful use of the Patriot act:

    After reading that article, I need a shower.

  11. Warren ( & Fred)

    So if conservatives want to throw people down holes, rape them, and throw them in jail for 20 years, I’m just wondering, What is the proper term for people who assume they know what an “other” group (e.g., conservatives) want and think?

  12. Rick,

    Shun? Could we eschew them if we’ve forgotten how to shun?

  13. Linguist,

    Can’t speak for Warren but the term is ‘experienced’.

  14. Fred,

    If you know how to eschew, you’re hep to shunning.

    Why do you think people like me would want people like you to rot in Attica for 20 years?

    The only people that I want to see put away are those who violate another’s person, property or liberty. This limits it to certain types of criminals and government agents. You don’t violate other peoples’ person, property or liberty, do you?

  15. ‘Certainly, it should strike people as odd that a supposedly conservative administration is crowing about how a law passed for one specific function is being more widely applied.’

    It is truly disturbing that this is used as a POSITIVE justification for the law. Pretty representative of the mindset of the administration, though.

  16. Doesn’t that vindicate the anti-PATRIOT Act folks who said that the PATRIOT Act wouldn’t just be used for terrorism. Seems as if NRO owes REASON an apology for claiming the us libs were being hysterical about the creep since the AG has admitted as much.

    If it has creeped this far beyond its intended use less than 3 years after it passed, what does the next decade or two have in store for us if it is made permanent?

  17. “Certainly, it should strike people as odd that a supposedly conservative administration is crowing about how a law passed for one specific function is being more widely applied.”

    I don’t know why you should think so. Conservatives believe that anyone who is different than themselves, deserves to be thrown into a hole, where they will be raped and tortured, and forgotten about. Anything that results in more people being thrown into more holes is fine. These days they are quite open about it and don?t even bother with pretense.

  18. Bravo, Warren! Does anyone wish to provide an encore?

  19. Rick,

    Now you are back to talking like a libertarian. Rotting for 20 years in Attica is exactly what the good citizens of NYS wanted me to do for possession of 2 oz of marijauna in 1973 under our infamous Rockerfeller drug laws.

  20. I also remember a statement by Asscrack back in late 2001 to the effect that they would use any available legal hook, including jaywalking, to get someone they “knew” was a “bad guy.”

    In other words, selective enforcement of the law to harass their political enemies.


    Back during the Clinton administration, that authoritarian statist twat Dianne Feinstein was talking about using the IRS to go after deadbeat dads. I wonder how may freepers who were up in arms about that are now cheering on Crisco John for doing the same thing.

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