Molly Ivins – We are all suspects, if Ashcroft has his way

December 12, 2001 at 12:54 pm
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Another Ivins classic! “With all due respect, of course, and God Bless America too, has anyone considered the possibility that the U.S. attorney general is becoming unhinged?” style=”COLOR: windowtext; FONT-FAMILY: Arial”> 


We are all
suspects, if Ashcroft has his way


 


by Molly
Ivins
 


 


Austin, Texas — With all due respect, of
course, and God Bless
America too, has anyone
considered the possibility that the U.S. attorney general is becoming
unhinged?


 


Poor
John Ashcroft is under a lot of strain here. Is it possible his mind has
started to give under the weight of responsibility, what with having to stop
terrorism between innings against doctors trying to help the dying in Oregon
and California? Why not take a Valium, sir, and go track down some nice
domestic nut with access to anthrax, OK?


 


Not
content with the noxious U.S.A. Patriot bill (for Uniting and Strengthening
America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct
Terrorism Act–urp), which was bad enough, Ashcroft has steadily moved from
bad to worse. Now he wants to bring back FBI surveillance of domestic
religious and political groups.


 


For
those who remember COINTELPRO, this is glorious news. Back in the day,
Fearless Fibbies, cleverly disguised in their wingtips and burr haircuts, used
to infiltrate such dangerous groups as the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference and Business Executives Against the War in Vietnam. This had the
usual comedic fallout, along with killing a few innocent people, and was so
berserk there was a standing rule on the left–anyone who proposed breaking
any law was automatically assumed to be an FBI agent.


 


Let’s
see, who might the Federal Fosdicks spy upon today? Columnist Tom Friedman of
The New York Times recently reported from Pakistan that hateful Taliban types
are teaching in the religious schools, “The faithful shall enter paradise, and
the unbelievers shall be condemned to eternal hellfire.” Frightful! Put the
Baptists on the list.


 


Those
who agitate against the government, constantly denigrating and opposing it?
Add Tom Delay, Dick Armey and Rush Limbaugh to the list.


 


Following the J. Edgar Hoover
Rule (anyone who criticized Hoover or the FBI was automatically targeted as
suspect), we need to add the FBI alumni association. According to The
Washington Times: “A half-dozen former FBI top guns, including once-Director
William Webster, have voiced their dismay at Ashcroft’s strategy of detention
and interview rather than prolonged investigation and surveillance of those
suspected of terrorism. They contend the new plan will fail to eliminate
terrorist networks and cells, leaving the roots to carry on. The harsh
criticism seems calculated to take advantage of growing concerns in Congress
about Ashcroft’s overall anti-terrorism approach.”


 


Harsh
criticism? Put the ex-FBI agents on the list. Come to that, “growing
concerns”? Put Congress on the list.


 


I
cannot commend too strongly those hardy, tough-minded citizens ready to
sacrifice all our civil rights in the fight against terrorism. It’s clear to
them anyone speaking up for civil liberties is on the side of the terrorists,
and that’s the kind of thinking that has earned syllogism the reputation it
enjoys today.


 


Some of
us are making lists and checking them twice to see who stood with us on this
particular St. Crispin’s Day. And when next we see you Federalist Society
types at some debate over, say, strict construction, we’ll be happy to remind
you how much you really care when the chips are down. With the honorable
exception of the libertarian right (William Safire, Rep. Bob Barr), the entire
conservative movement is missing in action, and so are a lot of pious
liberals.


 


And
what could be better than the insouciance with which the attorney general
himself approaches the Constitution? During his six years in the Senate, he
tried to proposed no fewer than seven constitutional amendments. Since we’ve
only managed to amend it 17 times in the last 200 years (that’s leaving out
the Bill of Rights), it’s an impressive record. Of course, one of John
Ashcroft’s proposed amendments was to make it easier to amend. Another was the
always helpful flag-burning amendment, which had it been in effect, would have
done so much to prevent the terrorist attacks.


 


Yep, if
we had a constitution largely rewritten by John Ashcroft, as opposed the one
we’re stuck with by such picayune minds as Madison, Washington, Franklin,
Hamilton, etc., we’d be a lot safer today.


 


Wouldn’t we? How? you ask. Well,
for example, uh . . . And there’s . . . uh. Well at least we could have had a
better visa system. So that has nothing to do with the Constitution: picky,
picky.


 


In this fight for our
cherished freedoms, those cherished freedoms should definitely be the first
thing to go. Sieg heil, y’all.

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