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ASHCROFT ON WIRETAPS, IMMIGRATION ARRESTS AND WHAT HE'D DO DIFFERENTLY

Reporter Vanessa Blum of Legal Times held this question-and-answer session with outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft.

They covered a lot of ground, as you can see from this excerpt:

LT: As a U.S. senator, you were a staunch supporter of individual liberties and wary when the federal government sought powers that might infringe on Americans' privacy. As attorney general, you have overseen a dramatic expansion of government surveillance power in the name of national security. How do you square those two seemingly inconsistent positions, and how have your views on government surveillance and the proper balance between liberty and security evolved?

ASHCROFT: The kinds of things that we've done to improve the intelligence capacity of the federal government, to deter terror, are the kinds of things that had been in place for years as it relates to a number of other kinds of criminal behavior and activity.

Let me give you the example of the so-called roving wiretap. In the late '80s, specific authority was granted in surveilling individuals who were involved in serious drug offenses and organized crime so that every time they changed telephones you didn't have to get a new court order in order to continue to surveil them. That power had never been extended to authorities relating to the surveillance of terrorists. Virtually all of the extensions to be found in the Patriot Act were extensions of authorities that were used on a regular basis against other kinds of criminals, but the authority had never been made available for the surveillance of and detection of and monitoring of people involved in the terror community.

More here.

Posted by Laurel Newby on January 31, 2005 at 12:19 PM | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

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