Former Attorney General John Ashcroft will campaign Thursday for his former Justice Department protege who went on to help write the controversial Arizona immigration law.
Kris Kobach, who advised Ashcroft on immigration and border security at the Justice Department, is running for Secretary of State in Kansas. He is a constitutional law professor at University of Missouri Kansas City and has been the architect of several immigration laws, including the recent Arizona law. President Barack Obama has criticized the law and the Justice Department is considering whether to challenge it in court.
Ashcroft will speak at two events Thursday on the topic “Defending America Against Radical Islamist Terrorism.”
“As my counsel at the Justice Department, Kris Kobach had a tremendous impact,” Ashcroft told radio station WIBW. “He saw what needed to be done, and succeeded in making dramatic reforms quickly. His service to his country in the wake of 9/11 was extraordinary. He is exactly the kind of person that Kansas needs in the Secretary of State’s office. He is a resourceful man of principle who will protect the integrity of the election process. And he knows how to cut red tape to bring new jobs to Kansas.”
Kris also has a $300-an-hour contract to teach sheriff’s deputies in Maricopa County, Arizona about immigration policy.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is also at the center of an ongoing investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft defended the use of military commissions for terrorism suspects in a speech before the conservative Heritage Foundation on Wednesday.
The Obama administration is in the process of reviewing whether terrorism suspects housed at Guantanamo Bay should face trials in civilian or military courts as they work to close the military prison.
Ashcroft, who served as the nation’s top law enforcement official from 2001 to 2005, said proceedings before the military tribunals would be fair to the defendants and dismissed the concerns of liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union. He said the use of commissions would not result in “cooked justice.”
“The rights of individuals are respected by our military,” Ashcroft said. “They are the people who give their lives in order to defend those rights. And it is less than fair to suggest that because you have a military commission, somehow you will be disrespecting justice.”
The Obama administration has slated some detainees for trials before military commissions. But Attorney General Eric Holder announced late last year that self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his alleged co-conspirators were destined for a civilian court in New York.
Holder has since backed off his announced plans for KSM and his alleged accomplices after backlash from Republican and Democratic leaders. He has said that military commissions are once again on the table for the terrorism suspects.
Ashcroft also said the Obama administration should continue to hold terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay and the prison is good facility to house alleged terrorists captured by soldiers on the battlefield.
“The idea that somehow there is something evil about Guantanamo, I think is a bankrupt idea,” the former Attorney General said.
On The Daily Show on Tuesday night, comedian Jon Stewart took on the group that published an ad last week targeting Justice Department lawyers who previously represented Guantanamo detainees.
“Who’s in the al-Qaeda seven? It’s an innocuous question, like ‘who’s in the Jackson Five?’” joked Stewart.
Numerous top lawyers, including conservative former members of the George W. Bush administration, have denounced the ad put out by Keep America Safe, an organization founded by Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard.
Despite the tone of the advertisement, Keep America Safe maintains that it is not accusing DOJ lawyers of being disloyal and is concerned only about transparency.
“You would not believe how obstinate the Attorney General can be,” said Stewart, setting up a clip of former Attorney General John Ashcroft testifying about why he refused to turn over documents.
“We believe that to provide this kind of information would impair that ability of advice-giving in the executive branch to be candid, forthright, through and accurate at all times,” Ashcroft said in the clip.
“I’m sorry, that was the wrong Attorney General, that was John Ashcroft, back when transparency was the thing that abetted the enemy,” joked Stewart.
Stewart poked fun at complaints about the lack of transparency, noting that the names of the lawyers were all available online and just required someone to do the leg work.
“Ah-ha! So the names are out there, but not in list form! And doesn’t collating and alphabetizing distract Keep America Safe from their real job — of making Keep America Safe commercials?” Stewart said.
The interview segment of the show featured former Bush administration speechwriter Mark Thiessen, author of the new book “Courting Disaster. How the CIA Kept America Safe and how Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack.”
Stewart and Thiessen spared over the ad, which Thiessen defended in his Washington Post column.
“Where was the moral outrage when fine lawyers like John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Jim Haynes, Steve Bradbury and others came under vicious personal attack?” Thiessen asked in the column. “Their critics did not demand simple transparency; they demanded heads. They called these individuals ‘war criminals’ and sought to have them fired, disbarred, impeached and even jailed. Where were the defenders of the ‘al-Qaeda seven’ when a Spanish judge tried to indict the ‘Bush six‘? Philippe Sands, author of the ‘Torture Team,’ crowed: ‘This is the end of these people’s professional reputations!’ I don’t recall anyone accusing him of ’shameful personal attacks.”
On The Daily Show, Thiessen tried to shoot down the arguments that lawyers have an obligation to defend even the worst criminals.
“John Adams actually represented people who had been accused of crimes. There’s a vast difference between representing someone who has been accused of a crime — everybody gets a lawyer under the Sixth Amendment if you’ve been accused of a crime,” said Thiessen. “The people in Guantanamo Bay have not been accused of crimes, they are being held as enemy combatants in a time of war.”
Stewart shot back, chiding Thiessen for having a selective memory about the history of terrorism in the U.S.
“It’s a very selective world that you live in, and it must be very lovely to live there, but things are not so clear cut,” said Stewart.
Thiessen complained at the end of the interview that he had not been given enough time to speak.
“I can’t get my points out on the air?” Thiessen said. “I think you’re talked right through me.”
The full unedited interview, which runs at almost a half hour, was posted online. But even after that period, Thiessen and Stewart we no closer than when they started.
“We’re not so different, you and I, except completely,” Stewart said.
Videos segment and of the interview, in three parts, are embedded below.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|The Hurt Docket|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Exclusive – Marc Thiessen Extended Interview Pt. 1|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Exclusive – Marc Thiessen Extended Interview Pt. 2|
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Exclusive – Marc Thiessen Extended Interview Pt. 3|
This story has been updated.
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A Superior Court judge in Maine is expected to be nominated as the state’s next U.S. Attorney, The Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported Wednesday.
According to the station, talk in legal circles in Maine has focused on Superior Court Justice Thomas Delahanty II. An assistant law professor at the University of Maine School of Law, Cab Howard, told the station, “I don’t think that would be much of a surprise,” adding that, because of his experience, Delahanty is “obviously familiar with the job.”
Although Delahanty told the station he is not at liberty to discuss the nomination process, the judge acknowledged that in late January he had traveled to Washington, D.C., for an interview.
Delahanty, who previously served as the state’s U.S. Attorney in 1980 and 1981, was one of four people selected as finalists by an advisory committee of Maine lawyers. The three others are Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle Jr., former U.S. Attorney Jay McCloskey and attorney Thimi Mina.
One candidate, McCloskey, confirmed to the station Wednesday that he is no longer under consideration. “Obviously, I was interested in being U.S. attorney and the rumor has it that someone else has been selected, and I don’t know when that will be confirmed,” McCloskey said.
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Former Attorney General John Ashcroft got a mixed reaction at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday, where some libertarian-leaning attendees booed his anti-terrorism policies, arguing they had violated the privacy of American citizens.
“There’s nothing honorable about taking away peoples’ rights,” shouted a woman in the crowd. Ashcroft responded that his time was up and he thought that woman’s was, too.
President George W. Bush’s first Attorney General received a standing ovation for his speech, but at other points, Ashcroft was jeered. One crowd member called him a fascist.
Today, Ashcroft told The Huffington Post that it was right to Mirandize suspected terrorists arrested on American soil. “When you have a person in the criminal justice system, you Mirandize them,” Ashcroft said.
His defense of the criminal justice system went against the current line of attack by President Bush’s last Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, who has been critical of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to put the alleged Christmas Day airplane bomber in the civilian justice system rather than in military custody.
During his speech, Ashcroft said, “We have the duty, from time to time, to respond [to terrorists] with the mechanisms and capacities of war rather than put our heads in the sand and think that we’re not at war or fail to consider whether we’re at war because we’re so in love with the vocabulary of the civil-justice system.”
He also said that a “range of opportunities” need to be available to deal with terrorists. He did not rule out the use of civilian courts – which the DOJ under Ashcroft and other Bush administration leaders used frequently to prosecute alleged terrorists and terrorism-related offenses.
Ashcroft was presented with the “Defender of the Constitution Award” in the afternoon. The introduction from radio host Scott Hennen was a bit incongruous, given Ashcroft’s position on those arrested on American soil. “Sadly, elections have consequences, and now we have Eric Holder and Mirandizing terrorists,” he said.
Ashcroft later came out to conclude a debate moderated by Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice on the topic of whether security trumps freedom.
Panelists Bob Barr, a former U.S. attorney and Republican member of Congress from Georgia, and Jim Gilmore of the Free Congress Foundation represented the libertarian view. Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) and Viet Dinh, a former Assistant Attorney General who served as an architect of the Patriot Act, defended the mechanisms in the name of security.
“We ought to be very careful, very careful about what we do in defense of this country,” said Ashcroft. “We ought to recognize that the courts of the United States do oversee us, and they have the final word, and I don’t think that there are any things in the United States Patriot Act that aren’t supervisable by the judicial branch of the United States.”
On his way out of the speech, Ashcroft posed for photos with members of the armed forces but ignored questions from reporters and declined to take a pamphlet offered to him by a man wearing an Obama Joker mask.
Video of Ashcroft’s speech is available at C-SPAN. It starts about 66 minutes in.
Main Justice’s Video of John Ashcroft’s speech after the debate is embedded below.
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Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has announced that former Justice Department official Paul Moore will become his new campaign manager in Moran’s campaign for the Senate, according to a Kansas television station. Moran is seeking to win the Republican nomination to succeed GOP Sen. Sam Brownback, who’s retiring to run for governor.
Moran is one of two Republicans, along with Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), seeking the nomination to succeed Brownback, who is running for governor. Moran is ahead of Tiahrt both in the polls and in the money race, according to Topeka station WIBW. The nominee will face either retired communications executive Charles Schollenberger or attorney Stanley Wiles in the general election, but whoever wins the Republican nomination will be heavily favored in November.
Moore worked on the confirmation team of former Attorney General John Ashcroft before working at the Justice Department under Ashcroft, the station reports. He also has served on local, state, and, national campaigns across the Midwest.
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Ari Shapiro, the award-winning correspondent for National Public Radio who has covered the Department of Justice for five years, is moving up the media food chain. He’ll begin covering the White House in the coming weeks, focusing on national security and legal issues.
Since he began covering the Justice Department in 2005, Shapiro has broken several major DOJ stories in addition to covering broader legal issues and more recently filling in as host of NPR’s Morning Edition. He was the first NPR reporter to be made a correspondent before age 30, according to his biography on the NPR Web site. He also recently made his on-stage debut at the Hollywood Bowl, singing a song he recorded for the band Pink Martini’s latest album.
Main Justice interviewed Shapiro about his new job on Wednesday morning.
When do you start at the White House?
It’s going to be somewhere in the next few weeks, we don’t have a specific start date yet, partly because NPR is in the process of hiring a new Justice Department correspondent, and they may have me sort of straddle both beats for a little while while they go through that process. But there are two other White House correspondents, and so they have been on the beat for a very long time and do a masterful job at it so there isn’t the most urgent pressing need for me to get over there immediately, but it will be some time in the next few weeks.
What types of stories will you be covering?
Generally the way White House coverage works at NPR is that there is [...] sort of a three-week rotation, so one week you’re in the White House covering the daily breaking news and then two weeks you’re doing sort of more “big picture” stories. The other two White House correspondents are Mara Liasson and Scott Horsley. Mara primarily seems to focus on political issues, Scott has tended to focus on economic issues, and I think that NPR’s thought is that I will focus on national security and legal issues, so I may be reporting on many of the same kinds of things that I have covered at Justice but from the perspective of the White House instead of from DOJ.
As you look back at the stories you’ve covered, what stories are you most proud of and which were the most fun to cover?
Well the most fun is easy — going to Baghdad with Attorney General Michael Mukasey was an amazing experience. Donna Leinwand from USA Today and I went on the trip with him and it was just a whirlwind. By the time we finished our 12-hour stay in Baghdad and landed back in Doha [Qatar], nobody had slept in about three days.
I remember we were leaving the military base in Doha to go to the hotel that we were staying at and the Qatar soldiers would not let the convoy enter the country, would not let the convoy go through the check point to leave the military base and we were stalled there and I kept waiting for Attorney General Mukasey to get out of the SUV and storm up to the guards and say “Do you know who I am?” but he never did.
When we finally showed up at the hotel it must have been two or three in the morning and the Qatari attorney general and his entourage were there waiting to greet Attorney General Mukasey and of course all anybody wanted to do was go to sleep, but there was this reception there. Just the experience of being in the bubble of the Attorney General for 24 hours, and I think I spun out about four stories from that trip, was a great adventure.
In terms of other stories that I’ve done that I think have made a difference, I was proud of the story I did on Leslie Hagan, who was not renewed in her job because of a rumor that she was a lesbian. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about covering Justice was sort of getting out into the county and covering Justice as it relates to specific communities — going to Noxubee County, Miss. and covering the first ever case that alleged a violation of the Voting Rights Act by black elected officials against white voters was a great experience. Just recently going out to Suffolk County, Long Island, and covering a civil rights investigation there into whether local officials there have ignored hate crimes against Latinos in Suffolk County.
It has also been very interesting over the last five years to chart the way the federal government’s approach to terrorism has changed and sort of the way the federal government has figured out how to sort through these very complicated new problems and find the balance between the war model and the law enforcement model, and it’s obviously a debate that is continuing more than ever today. That has been very interesting to chart as court cases have made their way through the system and the Justice Department has changed its approach in response.
Specifically on the national security front, how have you seen that debate about the balance between law enforcement and war manifest itself? Has there been a shift in the new administration?
Just this week there was a New Yorker story in which Brad Berenson, who was in the White House counsel’s staff in the Bush administration, was quoted as saying from his perspective, on the national security front, the glass was 85 percent full, or something to that effect, he said basically things are 85 percent the same as they were during the Bush administration. I don’t know that I would put a specific percentage on it, but I think many people have said before, and I certainly appreciate their point of view, that it is in President Obama’s interest, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s interest, to portray a greater difference in national security policies between the last administration than in fact there actually is. Certainly, the language used to describe counter-terrorism efforts has changed dramatically. I think that although there have been changes in the policies, those policy changes have not been as dramatic as the language has.
So will you just dive in head first? How do you get a grasp on the broad range of issues the White House beat deals with?
I was just thinking last night about how five years ago when I started this beat, there was so much about the Justice Department that I didn’t know, from the names of officials to acronyms. I can remember doing interviews when I started covering Justice that I would say to the person I was interviewing, ‘Now, most NPR listeners are not familiar with the term habeas corpus, so why don’t you define it for them,’ of course, not knowing myself what habeas corpus meant.
As I start on this White House beat, I think there’s going to be this same kind of learning curve. I was just thinking last night about all the structural things of the White House and learning the names of officials and the things that I’ll have to learn, but I think that’s one of the reasons this is the right choice, having covered Justice for five years, it’s a fantastic experience and I love the beat, but I feel like a good time to try something new.
How do you prepare for your new role? Have you set up your Google Alerts yet?
I actually need to ask for our reference librarian’s help in structuring the right Google Alert, because if I put the Google Alert for Barack Obama, I’m going to get such a tremendous amount of information it’ll be useless. With a Google Alert for Eric Holder, it’s a little bit more digestible, but I’ll have to structure the new ones for the White House beat. But it’s true that I’m going to be relying really heavily upon some of the contacts and sources that I’ve developed over the past five years in starting on this new beat and to a certain extent it’s going to be like drinking from a fire hydrant and I expect that for the first six months to a year, I will be struggling to keep up, and that’s exciting to me.
When I started as a reporter, I felt like there was a long list of mistakes I had to make once in order to make sure that I wouldn’t make them again and then about a year ago when I started filling in as a guest host, there was a whole new list of things that could go wrong, most of which I have now done at least once, and hopefully that means that I will not do them again. So I’m sure that now that I’m starting on a whole new beat at the White House, I’ll have a whole new list of things that could go wrong and mistakes that I might make, and it’s just a matter of hanging in there, forging through them until I’ve sort of exhausted that list and feel comfortable in the routine.
What will you miss most about covering the Justice Department beat?
You know I remember during the U.S. Attorney firing scandal, there were countless hearings into the firings, and at almost every one of those hearings, somebody, whether it was a witness, or a congressman or a senator, would talk about how people who work at the Department of Justice feel a devotion to the Department and a passion for the Department’s mission that other federal government employees don’t feel, and I can’t speak to what other federal government employees do or don’t feel because I’ve never covered another federal department, but I have always been impressed by the way the people at the Department of Justice consider their work to be much more than a job. From national security to civil rights to environment to antitrust, across the board, people at DOJ feel a real devotion to the mission of the Department. John Ashcroft used to say the Department of Justice is the only Department with a value in its name, and there’s really something to that that I will miss.
Do you think there’s a lot more of a political aspect to covering the White House than there is to covering the Justice Department? Obviously at the White House sort of everything is political where at DOJ there’s supposed to be more of a divider line — in just enforcing the law as it’s written, where not everything is thought of politically, sort of what we’re seeing with the handling of the KSM trial.
“Yeah, well one of the major themes of the past five years has been the extent to which politics has or has not improperly affected the decision-making at the Department of Justice. There have been amazing Inspector General reports and hearings about that and I would say that was one of the major themes of the past five years. At the White House, there is a completely different standard as to which politics can influence decision making and that’s going to be a real difference.”
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In a letter to President Barack Obama, a group of retired U.S. generals say they are “deeply concerned by the hysteria permeating the public debate” around closing the military prison at Guantánamo Bay and filing cases against terrorism suspects in civilian court. They say opponents are using the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day as a reason to advocate for torturing suspects to gain intelligence.
“Opponents of your plan to close Guantánamo are using the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 as an excuse to renew their calls to keep the Guantánamo prison facility open and to oppose bringing terrorist suspects to justice in federal courts,” reads a letter from 33 retired flag and general officers.
“We know from experience that torture does not produce reliable intelligence, and acting on information derived through such abuse is dangerous, to our troops, and to our nation.”
In a separate letter, retired U.S. Marine Corps. Generals Joseph P. Hoar and Charles C. Krulak, co-chairmen of the group of 33, wrote Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R-Mass.) to request a meeting to discuss issues regarding the treatment and detention of enemy prisoners.
Four of the retired generals who signed the letter to Obama, Gen. David M. Maddox, Lieut. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, Major Gen. William L. Nash, and Brigadier Gen. James P. Cullen, appeared at the National Press Club where they criticized those who wanted to keep detainees as enemy combatants.
“The president and his national security team are undeterred by those who wish to spread the message of fear and retreat,” said Maddox, who said that misinformation has dominated the public debate over the issues.
“Some have suggested that suspects like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of attempting to bomb Flight 253, do not deserve the protection provided in our federal courts and should instead be subject to military tribunals. On the contrary, we believe that Abdulmatallab and his ilk should be treated as the would-be mass murderers they are. To bestow on him and others like him the designation of “enemy combatant” reinforces their claims to be jihadist warriors,” write the generals.
Republican critics, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former Attorney General John Ashcroft have criticized the plan to close Guantánamo, arguing that it compromises national security.
Soyster had the opposite view. He said the hysteria was “unwarranted and dangerous.” He said that experienced intelligence officials have for years used “tried and true techniques” that have allowed the U.S. to collect relevant information and prevent future attacks.
Cullen, who lost friends in the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, said it would be wrong to compromise the U.S. judicial system. He also said the civilian judicial system has been much more successful at convicting terrorists, with a 90 percent conviction rate, whereas military tribunals have seen only one out of three terrorism suspects convicted.
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Two teenagers are suing a former Assistant U.S. Attorney who is currently serving a 65-year sentence for sex crimes involving the boys, The Associated Press reports. Eric Tolen was a prosecutor in the Eastern District of Missouri from 1987 until his termination in 1999.
His firing followed allegations of perjury in connection with his brother’s bank robbery trial, the unauthorized outside practice of law, making false statements to investigating officers and abusing his position and misusing government resources for personal gain. After his termination, Tolen, who claimed he was fired because of racial discrimination, brought claims against then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, then-FBI Special Agent Gary Fuhr and former Justice Department attorney Joseph Gontram.
Later, in 2008, Tolen was convicted of 36 counts of statutory sodomy for engaging in sex with teenage boys between 1995 and 2007, according to the AP. He was sentenced to two terms of 25 years for two counts of first degree statutory sodomy, five years for each of the 34 counts of second degree statutory sodomy and fined for witness tampering, the AP reports.
Two of the boys, who are now 18 years old, this week filed a lawsuit in St. Louis County seeking $10 million in damages. In the suit the boys claim that Tolen intended to do them bodily harm, according to the AP story.
During the criminal trial, prosecutors said Tolen asked boys to help him around his home and then would ask them to perform sex acts with him in exchange for gifts, according to AP.
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Appearing on Fox News yesterday, former Attorney General John Ashcroft said that “people who insist on jury trials for all people who are apprehended may simply be compromising national security and our ability to gain intelligence.”
“I think we have to be very careful that we have, as our focal point, national security, and that we don’t allow political correctness or institutional or interest groups, if you will, to dictate that we handle things one way, when we should handle them another,” said Ashcroft.
Ashcroft joined the criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try attempted Christmas day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian court.
“We need to take people and treat them as — for what they are, is enemy combatants, and they should be processed in a different way,” said Ashcroft.
“This is not always the case. Each case is to be understood on its specific facts, but we shouldn’t be — the tail shouldn’t wag the dog, interest groups and political correctness. The Constitution should define our behavior. The law should define our behavior. And we should always live within those limits.”
Ashcroft also told Fox News host Neil Cavuto that racial profiles are frequently misleading and that there are other, more effective measures of risk.
CAVUTO: Would you say the better part of valor would be to screen Muslim-looking men?
ASHCROFT: Well, I think we should screen people who are high-risk. And all of criminal law is a matter of using profiles. We have learned, however, that racial profiles are frequently misleading and that there are other things that really provide better indication where the risk is high.
And, obviously, with the so-called underwear bomber, there were things that should have led us to suspect that he would be eligible for the right kind of screening on the right kind of special attention, if it meant a no- fly list. But the warnings from his family, the kind of fare he purchased in — well, I think a one-way fare with cash, and those kind of things, they are items which we have long known to be indicators of high risk.
(Note: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab actually bought a round-trip ticket with cash, and his passenger record indicated a return reservation for January. As the Wall Street Journal wrote, this one-way ticket myth has bounced around the media for weeks.)