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John Ashcroft is out of control. The August 6 New York Daily News scooped the story that answers the question, "What happened to Patriot II?" Remember that disgusting piece of legislation that Ashcroft said was merely a "draft" of revisions of the USA Patriot Act? Even the Congress, caught sleeping through Patriot I, woke up for that one. It featured absurd concepts like stripping Americans of their citizenship and sending them off to some island somewhere to rot.
Old Patriots never die, they just reinvent themselves, always victorious, naturally. The News says that Ashcroft will be traipsing across the country at taxpayer expense drumming up support for the VICTORY Act, scheduled to be introduced to the Senate in September by none other than roarin’ Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).
VICTORY–Vital Interdiction of Criminal Terrorist Organizations Act–will enable Ashcroft and clan to:
Clamp down on Arab hawala transactions, where cash exchanged in an honor system has been funneled to terrorists, according to the government. Of course, this monetary system is what supports tens of thousands of family members of immigrants and legal aliens, who come to this country, do the work Americans won’t do, and send their hard-earned dollars home to families living in abject poverty.
Get business records without a court order in terrorism probes and delay notification. In past weeks Ashcroft has said over and over that business records require a warrant–when in fact they require only approval of the secret FISA court, an Ashcroft rubber stamp. Immediately on the heels of spreading this word, Ashcroft is asking for law that would remove all judicial oversight of government snooping.
Track wireless communications with a roving warrant. Roving wiretaps are now allowed for cell phones and laptops. This provision pulls in wireless communication devices so Big Brother can follow you all over the globe.
Increase sentences for drug kingpins to 40 years in prison and $4 million in fines. This provision suggests that Ashcroft has taken the leap that drug dealing equals terrorism. A point could be made for that argument, but then what crime isn’t terrorism of some sort–to somebody? Is Ashcroft setting the stage for further revision of the criminal code so that 20-year sentences can be meted out for reckless driving (there’s terrorism for you) or being drunk in public?
On another front, The Wall Street Journal reported on August 6 that Ashcroft had "ordered" federal prosecutors to "report" to His Highness federal judges who give less than federal mandatory minimum sentences. Hey, even Chief Justice William Rehnquist doesn’t like the sound of this. I am not sure there is a Constitutional basis for the Executive Branch (Ashcroft & Co.) prosecuting the Judicial Branch for not giving harsh enough sentences. But then, Ashcroft never let a little detail like the law or the Constitution stop him.
Who will win this showdown? Considering that King George has Chief Justice to thank for his crown and throne, might Chief Prosecutor be sacrificed for the sake of the realm? Bush has one goal and only one–to get reelected. John Pointdexter got his walking papaers for pushing policies that were beyond the pale of what even Bush lovers could tolerate. Now Ashcroft is fast becoming the King’s most reviled retainer and one whom many Republicans wish to distance themselves from. Public interest lawsuits are mounting against the man who has been on a mission to destroy the Constitution.
Bring it on, Big John. The more outrageous your proposals, the sooner we send you back to Missouri.
ELAINE CASSEL practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teachers law and psychology, and follows the Bush regime’s dismantling of the Constitution at Civil Liberties Watch. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org