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Profile: John Ashcroft

 
  

Positions that John Ashcroft has held:

  • Attorney General (2001-)
  • US Senator, Republican


 

Quotes

 
  

Undefined, June 10, 2002

   “In apprehending [Padilla] as he sought entry into the United States, we have disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive ‘dirty bomb’.” [CBS, 6/10/2002]

Associated Events

Quote, June 8, 2004

   “This administration rejects torture.” [The Guardian, 6/9/2004]

Associated Events


 

Relations

 
  

No related entities for this entity.


 

John Ashcroft actively participated in the following events:

 
  

Early 2000      US confrontation with Iran

       US Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS) agents arrest Mahnaz Samadi, a leading spokeswoman for the National Council of Resistance, at the Canadian border because several years earlier, when she was seeking political asylum in the US, she had not disclosed her past “terrorist” ties as an MEK “military commander” or the fact that she had trained in an MEK camp that was located in Iraq. Hearing about the case from his constituents, Missouri Senator John Ashcroft comes to the rescue and writes a letter on May 10, 2000 to Attorney General Janet Reno opposing Samadi's arrest. In his letter, he calls her a “highly regarded human-rights activist.” [Slate, 3/21/2003; Newsweek, 9/26/2002; US State Department, 2003]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Mujahedeen-e Khalq, Mahnaz Samadi
          

September 2000      US confrontation with Iran

       When the Iranian National Council of Resistance, a front group for the militant Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), holds a demonstration outside the United Nations protesting a speech by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Republican Senators Ashcroft and Chris Bond from Missouri issue a joint statement expressing solidarity with the organization. [US State Department, 2003; Newsweek, 9/26/2002; Slate, 3/21/2003]
People and organizations involved: Chris Bond, John Ashcroft, National Council of Resistance, Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

Spring 2001: Ashcroft Doesn't Want FBI Director to Talk About Terrorism      Complete 911 Timeline

       Attorney General John Ashcroft talks with FBI Director Louis Freeh before an annual meeting of special agents. Ashcroft lays out his priorities, which according to one participant is “basically violent crime and drugs.” Freeh bluntly replies that those are not his priorities and he talks about counterterrorism. “Ashcroft does not want to hear about it,” says one witness. [Newsweek, 5/27/02]
People and organizations involved: Louis J. Freeh, John Ashcroft
          

May 10, 2001: Ashcroft Omits Counterterrorism from List of Goals      Complete 911 Timeline

       Attorney General Ashcroft sends a letter to department heads telling them the Justice Department's new agenda. He cites seven goals, but counterterrorism is not one of them. Yet just one day earlier, he testified before Congress and said of counterterrorism, “The Department of Justice has no higher priority.” [New York Times, 2/28/02] Dale Watson, head of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, recalls nearly falling out of his chair when he sees counterterrorism not mentioned as a goal. [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04] In August, a strategic plan is distributed, listing the same seven goals and 36 objectives. Thirteen objectives are highlighted, but the single objective relating to counterterrorism is not highlighted. [New York Times, 2/28/02]
People and organizations involved: US Department of Justice, John Ashcroft, Counterterrorism Division, Dale Watson
          

July 12, 2001: Ashcroft Reputedly Uninterested in Terrorism      Complete 911 Timeline

       On July 5, the CIA briefed Attorney General Ashcroft on the al-Qaeda threat, warning that a significant terrorist attack is imminent, and a strike could occur at any time. [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04 (B)] On this day, acting FBI Director Tom Pickard briefs Ashcroft about the terror threat inside the US. Pickard later swears under oath that Ashcroft tells him, “[I do] not want to hear about this anymore.” Ashcroft, also under oath, later categorically denies the allegation, saying, “I did never speak to him saying that I didn't want to hear about terrorism.” However, Ruben Garcia, head of the Criminal Division, and another senior FBI official corroborate Pickard's account. Ashcroft's account is supported by his top aide, but another official in Ashcroft's office who could also support Ashcroft's account says he cannot remember what happened. Pickard briefs Ashcroft on terrorism four more times that summer, but he never mentions al-Qaeda to Ashcroft again before 9/11. [MSNBC, 6/22/04] Pickard later makes an appeal to Ashcroft for more counterterrorism funding; Ashcroft rejects the appeal on September 10, 2001 (see September 10, 2001). [9/11 Commission Report, 4/13/04] Pickard later says, “Before September 11th, I couldn't get half an hour on terrorism with Ashcroft. He was only interested in three things: guns, drugs, and civil rights.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 293]
People and organizations involved: Ruben Garcia, Central Intelligence Agency, Thomas Pickard, al-Qaeda, John Ashcroft
          

July 26, 2001: Ashcroft Stops Flying Commercial Airlines; Refuses to Explain Why      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Attorney General John Ashcroft.
CBS News reports that Attorney General Ashcroft has stopped flying commercial airlines due to a threat assessment, but “neither the FBI nor the Justice Department ... would identify [to CBS] what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.” [CBS News, 7/26/01] “Ashcroft demonstrated an amazing lack of curiosity when asked if he knew anything about the threat. ‘Frankly, I don't,’ he told reporters.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/02] It is later reported that he stopped flying in July based on threat assessments made on May 8 and June 19. In May 2002, it is claimed the threat assessment had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but Ashcroft walked out of his office rather than answer questions about it. [Associated Press, 5/16/02] The San Francisco Chronicle concludes, “The FBI obviously knew something was in the wind. ... The FBI did advise Ashcroft to stay off commercial aircraft. The rest of us just had to take our chances.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/02] CBS's Dan Rather later asks of this warning: “Why wasn't it shared with the public at large?” [Washington Post, 5/27/02]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Dan Rather, John Ashcroft, US Department of Justice, al-Qaeda
          

Late July 2001: Ex-House Judiciary Committee's Chief Investigator Tries to Warn About Plans to Strike Buildings in New York      Complete 911 Timeline

      
David Schippers.
David Schippers, noted conservative Chicago lawyer and the House Judiciary Committee's chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, claims two days after 9/11 that he had tried to warn federal authorities about plans to strike buildings in lower Manhattan. Schippers says, “I was trying to get people to listen to me because I had heard that the terrorists had set up a three-pronged attack:” an American airplane, the bombing of a federal building in the heartland and a massive attack in lower Manhattan. He tries contacting Attorney General Ashcroft, the White House, and even the House managers with whom he had worked, but nobody returns his phone calls. “People thought I was crazy. What I was doing was I was calling everybody I knew telling them that this has happened,” he says. “I'm telling you the more I see of the stuff that's coming out, if the FBI had even been awake they would have seen it.” He also claims to know of ignored warnings about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and evidence that Middle Easterners were connected with that attack. [Indianapolis Star, 5/18/02] Other mainstream sources have apparently shied away from Schippers' story, but he has added details in an interview on the partisan Alex Jones Show. He claims that FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota first contact him and tell him that an attack is going to occur in lower Manhattan. A group of these agents reportedly wants to testify about what they know, but first want legal protection from government retribution. [Alex Jones Show, 10/10/01]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Schippers, John Ashcroft
          

September 10, 2001: Ashcroft Opposes Counterterrorism Funding      Complete 911 Timeline

       Attorney General Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in financing for the bureau's counterterrorism programs. On the same day, he sends a request for budget increases to the White House. It covers 68 programs—but none of them relate to counterterrorism. He also sends a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities—none of them relate to counterterrorism. [New York Times, 6/1/02; Guardian, 5/21/02] He further proposes cutting a program that gives state and local counterterrorism grants for equipment like radios and preparedness training from $109 million to $44 million. Yet Ashcroft stopped flying public airplanes in July due to an as yet undisclosed terrorist threat, and in a July speech he proclaimed, “Our No. 1 priority is the prevention of terrorist attacks.” [New York Times, 2/28/02]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Bush administration
          

(8:30 a.m.): Some US Leaders Are Scattered; Others in D.C.      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Secretary of State Colin Powell leaves his Lima, Peru hotel after hearing the news.
Just prior to learning about the 9/11 attacks, top US leaders are scattered across the country and overseas:
President Bush is in Sarasota, Florida. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
Secretary of State Powell is in Lima, Peru. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
General Henry Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is flying across the Atlantic on the way to Europe. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
Attorney General Ashcroft is flying to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Joe Allbaugh is at a conference in Montana. [ABC News, 9/14/02 (B)] Others are in Washington:
Vice President Cheney and National Security Adviser Rice are at their offices in the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is at his office in the Pentagon, meeting with a delegation from Capitol Hill. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
CIA Director Tenet is at breakfast with his old friend and mentor, former senator David Boren (D), at the St. Regis Hotel, three blocks from the White House. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
FBI Director Mueller is in his office at FBI Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue. [Washington Post, 1/27/02]
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is at his office at the Department of Transportation. [Senate Commerce Committee, 9/20/01]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is at a conference in the Ronald Reagan Building three blocks from the White House. [Clarke, 2004, pp 1]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Henry H. Shelton, Robert S. Mueller III, Condoleezza Rice, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Joeseph M. Allbaugh, Richard A. Clarke, Norman Mineta, Donald Rumsfeld, David Boren, Colin Powell, George Tenet, George W. Bush
          

10:49 p.m.: Ashcroft Claims to Already Understand Hijacking Procedure      Complete 911 Timeline

       It is reported that Attorney General Ashcroft has told members of Congress that there were three to five hijackers on each plane armed only with knives. [CNN, 9/12/01]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft
          

Before September 23, 2001      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       Less than two weeks after 9/11, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales sets up an interagency group to design a strategy for prosecuting terrorists, and specifically asks it to suggest military commissions as one viable option for prosecution of suspected terrorists. Pierre-Richard Prosper from the State Department, assigned to lead the group, recalls, “We were going to go after the people responsible for the attacks, and the operating assumption was that we would capture a significant number of al-Qaeda operatives.” In addition to the use of military commissions, the group begins to work out three other options: ordinary criminal trials, military courts-martial, and tribunals with a mixed membership of civilians and military personnel. The option of a criminal trial by an ordinary federal court is quickly brushed aside for logistical reasons, according to Prosper. “The towers were still smoking, literally. I remember asking: Can the federal courts in New York handle this? It wasn't a legal question so much as it was logistical. You had 300 al-Qaeda members, potentially. And did we want to put the judges and juries in harm's way?” Despite the interagency group's willingness to study the option of military commissions, lawyers at the White House, according to reporter Tim Golden, grow impatient with the group. Some of its members are seen to have “cold feet.” [New York Times, 10/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: Scott McClellan, Beth Nolan, John Ashcroft, Alberto R. Gonzales, Jay S. Bybee
          

Late October 2001      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       White House lawyers have become impatient with the interagency group's (see Before September 23, 2001) less than full endorsement of the use of military commissions to try suspected terrorists. By late October, Timothy E. Flanigan takes the task of designing a strategy for prosecuting terrorists away from the group and proceeds to focus on military commissions as the only preferable option. The White House lawyers now work more in secret, excluding many agencies and most of the government's experts in military and international law, but together with the lawyers of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), with the intention of drafting a presidential military order. [New York Times, 10/24/2004] There is a remarkable secrecy surrounding the drafting process. Both Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and his deputy, Larry D. Thompson, are closely consulted. But the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Michael Chertoff is kept out of the loop. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is informed through his general counsel, Williams J. Haynes II. Other Pentagon experts, however, are excluded. [New York Times, 10/24/2004] When the order is signed many expressed surprise. “That came like a bolt from the blue,” a former Pentagon official says. “Neither I nor anyone I knew had any insight, any advance knowledge, or any opportunity to comment on the president's military order.” [The Guardian, 6/9/2004] “I can't tell you how compartmented things were,” retired Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter, the Navy's Judge Advocate General, later recalls. “This was a closed administration.” [New York Times, 10/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: Donald J. Guter, William J. Haynes, Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Chertoff, Larry D. Thompson, John Ashcroft
          

November 10, 2001      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       Vice-President Cheney leads a meeting at the White House to put the finishing touches on a draft Presidential Order establishing military commissions (see November 9, 2001). The meeting includes Ashcroft, Haynes, and the White House lawyers, but leaves out senior officials of the State Department and the National Security Council. Two officials later claim Cheney advocated withholding the document from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to a former official, Cheney discusses the draft with Bush over lunch a few days later. [New York Times, 10/24/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, William J. Haynes, John Ashcroft, Richard ("Dick") Cheney
          

December 3-5, 2001      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       As soon as he hears the news, Lindh's father immediately hires James Brosnahan, a well-respected lawyer, on behalf of his son. On December 3, Brosnahan faxes a letter to Powell, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, and CIA Director George Tenet. He introduces himself as Lindh's lawyer, expressing his wish to see him, and stating: “Because he is wounded and, based upon press reports, went for three days without food, I would ask that any further interrogation be stopped, especially if there is any intent to use it in any subsequent legal proceedings.” When Brosnahan receives no reply, he writes again, “I would ask that no further interrogation of my client occur until I have the opportunity to speak with him. As an American citizen, he has the right to counsel and, under all applicable legal authorities, I ask for the right to speak with my client as soon as possible.” On December 5, still having received no reply, he urges that “we have a conversation today.” Again, no reply comes. [World Socialist Web Site, 3/27/2002; New Yorker, 3/3/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/23/2002]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, George Tenet, James Brosnahan, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld
          

January 20, 2002      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly defends the president's decision (see January 18, 2002) to deny detainees the protections of Geneva Convention. He calls them “terrorists” who “are uniquely dangerous.” [CNN, 1/22/2002]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft
          

February 1, 2002      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       In a letter to Bush, Ashcroft argues that the Third Geneva Convention should not be applicable to the Taliban, based on two grounds. First, Afghanistan is a failed state and cannot therefore be considered a party to the treaty. Second, Taliban fighters acted as unlawful combatants. Explaining the advantages of this proposal, Ashcroft notes, “[A] Presidential determination against treaty applicability would provide the highest assurance that no court would subsequently entertain charges that American military officers, intelligence officials and law enforcement officials violated Geneva Convention rules relating to field conduct, detention conduct or interrogation of detainees.” [Sources: Letter from US Attorney General John Ashcroft to George Bush, 2/1/2002] As Judge Evan J. Wallach will later observe, “Attorney General Ashcroft's letter seems to make it clear that by the end of January, at least, consideration was being given to conduct which might violate [the Third Geneva Convention's] strictures regarding the detention and interrogation of prisoners of war.” [International Law Of War Association, 9/29/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, John Ashcroft
          

March 14, 2002: US Indicts Saeed for Murder of Daniel Pearl      Complete 911 Timeline

       Attorney General Ashcroft announces a second US criminal indictment of Saeed Sheikh, this time for his role in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. The amount of background information given about Saeed is very brief, with only scant reference to his involvement with Islamic militant groups after his release from prison in 1999. It only mentions is that he fought in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda in September and October 2001. The indictment and Ashcroft fail to mention Saeed's financing of the 9/11 attacks, and no reporters ask Ashcroft about this either. [CNN, 3/14/02; Los Angeles Times, 3/15/02]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Daniel Pearl, Saeed Sheikh, John Ashcroft
          

June 4, 2002: Bush Acknowledges Agencies Made Mistakes, Continues to Insist That 9/11 Could Not Have Been Prevented      Complete 911 Timeline

       For the first time, Bush concedes that his intelligence agencies had problems: “In terms of whether or not the FBI and the CIA were communicating properly, I think it is clear that they weren't.” [Times of London, 6/5/02] However, in an address to the nation three days later, President Bush still maintains, “Based on everything I've seen, I do not believe anyone could have prevented the horror of September the 11th.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/02] Days earlier, Newsweek reported that the FBI had prepared a detailed chart showing how agents could have uncovered the 9/11 plot if the CIA had told them what it knew about the hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar sooner. (FBI Director Mueller denies the existence of such a chart. [Washington Post, 6/3/02] ) One FBI official says, “There's no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together.” [Newsweek, 6/2/02] Attorney General Ashcroft also says it is unlikely better intelligence could have stopped the attacks. [Washington Post, 6/3/02]
People and organizations involved: Nawaf Alhazmi, John Ashcroft, Robert S. Mueller III, Khalid Almihdhar, George W. Bush, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency
          

June 9, 2002      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       President Bush designates Padilla, who has been in custody since May 8 (see May 8, 2002), an “enemy combatant” on advice from Rumsfeld and Ashcroft, and directs Rumsfeld to see that he his taken into military custody. Padilla is taken to the Consolidated Naval Brig in Charleston, South Carolina sometime during the middle of that night. At the time of the transfer, Padilla was awaiting a judgment on a request made by his counsel to have the material witness warrant (see May 8, 2002) vacated. [CNN, 6/11/2002]
People and organizations involved: Jose Padilla, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft
          

June 10, 2002      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       Attorney General John Ashcroft announces Padilla's arrest (see June 9, 2002), claiming that “in apprehending [Padilla] as he sought entry into the United States,” the US government has “disrupted an unfolding terrorist plot to attack the United States by exploding a radioactive ‘dirty bomb.’ ” [CBS News, 6/10/2002] Similarly, President Bush says: “This guy, Padilla, is a bad guy. And he is where he needs to be—detained,” along with many other “would-be killers” as part of the war on terrorism. And Rumsfeld too, states that Padilla “was unquestionably involved in terrorist activities.” [CNN, 6/11/2002] Padilla becomes publicly known as the “dirty-bomber.”
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, George W. Bush, Jose Padilla, Donald Rumsfeld
          

August 1, 2002      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) sends a non-classified memo to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, offering the opinion that a policy allowing suspected al-Qaeda members to be tortured abroad “may be justified.” [Sources: Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, 8/1/2002] The 50-page memo is signed and authored by Jay S. Bybee, head of OLC, and co-authored by John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general. Gonzales had formally asked for the OLC's legal opinion in response to a request by the CIA for legal guidance. A former administration official, quoted by the Washington Post, says the CIA “was prepared to get more aggressive and re-learn old skills, but only with explicit assurances from the top that they were doing so with the full legal authority the president could confer on them.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] “We conclude that the statute, taken as a whole,” Bybee and Yoo write, “makes plain that it prohibits only extreme acts.” Addressing the question of what exactly constitute such acts of an extreme nature, the authors proceed to define torture as the infliction of “physical pain” that is “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” Purely mental pain or suffering can also amount to “torture under Section 2340,” but only if it results “in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g. lasting for months or even years.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] Bybee and Yoo appear to conclude that any act short of torture, even though it may be cruel, inhuman or degrading, would be permissible. They examine, for example, “international decisions regarding the use of sensory deprivation techniques.” These cases, they notice, “make clear that while many of these techniques may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, they do not produce pain or suffering of the necessary intensity to meet the definition of torture. From these decisions, we conclude that there is a wide range of such techniques that will not rise to the level of torture.” More astounding is Bybee and Yoo's view that even torture can be defensible. “We conclude,” they write, “that, under the current circumstances, necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate Section 2340A.” Inflicting physical or mental pain might be justified, Bybee and Yoo argue, “in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al-Qaeda terrorist network.” In other words, necessity or self-defense may justify torture. Moreover, “necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004] International anti-torture rules, furthermore, “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations” of suspected terrorists. [US News and World Report, 6/21/2004] Laws prohibiting torture would “not apply to the president's detention and interrogation of enemy combatants” in the “war on terror,” because the president has constitutional authority to conduct a military campaign. [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] “As commander in chief,” the memo argues, “the president has the constitutional authority to order interrogations of enemy combatants to gain intelligence information concerning the military plans of the enemy.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] According to some critics, this judgment—which will be echoed in a March 2003 draft Pentagon report (see March 6, 2003) —ignores important past rulings such as the 1952 Supreme Court decision in Youngstown Steel and Tube Co v. Sawyer, which determined that the president, even in wartime, is subject to US laws. [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] The memo also says that US Congress “may no more regulate the president's ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] After the memo's existence is revealed, Attorney General John D. Ashcroft denies senators' requests to release it and refuses to say if or how the president was involved in the discussion. “The president has a right to hear advice from his attorney general, in confidence,” he says. [The Washington Post, 6/9/2004; Bloomberg, 6/8/2004; New York Times, 6/8/2004] Responding to questions about the memo, White House press secretary Scott McClellan will reason that the memo “was not prepared to provide advice on specific methods or techniques,” but was “analytical.” But the 50-page memo seems to have been considered immensely important, given its length and the fact that it was signed by Jay S. Bybee, head of the Office Legal Counsel. “Given the topic and length of opinion, it had to get pretty high-level attention,” Beth Nolan, a former White House Counsel (1999-2001), will tell The Washington Post. This view is confirmed by another former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer who tells the newspaper that unlike documents signed by deputies in the Office of Legal Counsel, memorandums signed by the Office's head are considered legally binding. [The Washington Post, 6/9/2004]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Scott McClellan, Beth Nolan, Jay S. Bybee, Alberto R. Gonzales
          

September 30, 2002: No Plea Bargain Sought in Case Against Moussaoui      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Zacarias Moussaoui.
Seymour Hersh of New Yorker magazine reveals that, despite a weak case against Zacarias Moussaoui, no federal prosecutor has discussed a plea bargain with him since he was indicted in November 2001. Hersh reports that “Moussaoui's lawyers, and some FBI officials, remain bewildered at the government's failure to pursue a plea bargain.” Says a federal public defender, “I've never been in a conspiracy case where the government wasn't interested in knowing if the defendant had any information—to see if there wasn't more to the conspiracy.” Apparently a plea bargain isn't being considered because Attorney General Ashcroft wants nothing less than the death penalty for Moussaoui. One former CIA official claims, “They cast a wide net and [Moussaoui] happened to be a little fish who got caught up in it. They know it now. And nobody will back off.” A legal expert says, “It appears that Moussaoui is not competent to represent himself, because he doesn't seem to understand the fundamentals of the charges against him, but I am starting to feel that the rest of us are crazier ... we may let this man talk himself to death to soothe our sense of vulnerability.” [New Yorker, 9/30/02]
People and organizations involved: Zacarias Moussaoui, John Ashcroft, Seymour Hersh
          

April 23, 2003      Haiti Coup

       John Ashcroft states that US authorities have “noticed an increase in third country nations (Pakistanis, Palestinians, etc.) using Haiti as a staging point for attempted migration to the United States. This increases the national security interest in curing use of this migration route.” Commenting on the remarks, State Department spokesman Stuart Patt says, “'We all are scratching our heads. We are asking each other, ‘Where did they get that?’ ” No evidence is ever offered by Ashcroft or anyone else in the Justice Department to support the accusation. Miami Immigration attorney Ira Kurzban, who will later represent Jean-Bertrand Aristide after his removal, says the statements are “part of a concerted plan involving the destruction of the Haitian people by creating the chaotic economic conditions in Haiti while forcing people to go back there.” Kurzban adds: “There is no basis of fact for the attorney general's claims. No information of this nature has been presented to the Haitian government. It's a false claim. It's used to perpetuate a discriminatory policy against Haitians.” [Miami Herald, 4/25/2003]
People and organizations involved: Ira Kurzman, John Ashcroft, Stuart Patt
          

June 23, 2003      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       President Bush designates Ali Sale Kayla al-Marri as an enemy combatant. Al-Marri has been in US custody since December 2001 (see December 15, 2001). The presidential order says he “engaged in conduct that constituted hostile and war-like acts, including conduct in preparation for acts of international terrorism.” The order adds that Al-Marri “represents a continuing, present, and grave danger to the national security of the United States.” His detention is necessary, the order claims, to prevent him from participating in terrorist activities against the US. Al-Marri is subsequently detained in solitary confinement at the Naval Brig in Charleston. The immediate result of the presidential order is that the Pentagon becomes Al-Marri's new custodian and that Al-Marri will not be entitled to legal representation or access to a US court. “Rather than providing due process,” his lawyer, Mark Berman, says, “the government has chosen a forum in which they can deny the defendant his constitutional rights, not the least of which is right to counsel.” The order in effect precludes a pretrial hearing scheduled for July 2 and the start of a formal trial on July 22. Berman filed a motion to suppress evidence seized at Al-Marri's apartment during an FBI search, which he says was conducted without a warrant. In addition, he claims his client was not properly advised of his rights before his initial interrogation. Officially, Al-Marri was indicted on seven counts, including making false statements to the FBI and identity and credit card fraud. He supposedly lied about contacts between September and November 2001 with an al-Qaeda paymaster in the United Arab Emirates, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. The Justice Department also alleges that Al-Marri is an al-Qaeda sleeper operative tasked with assisting other members in carrying out future terrorist attacks. These officials say this information was provided by another detainee, believed to be a member of al-Qaeda, who also claims Al-Marri is trained in the use of poisons. Other detainees have told interrogators that Al-Marri met with Osama bin Laden at the Al-Farouq training camp in Afghanistan, where he offered to become a martyr. An additional reason for Al-Marri's designation of enemy combatant appears to be the possibility of drawing more information from him. Attorney General Ashcroft states: “An individual with that kind of situation is an individual who might know a lot about what could happen, might know the names of individuals, information being so key to intelligence and prevention.” [CNN, 6/24/2003]
People and organizations involved: Ali Sale Kayla al-Marri, John Ashcroft, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, Mark Berman
          

December 2003      US confrontation with Iran

       The US-appointed Iraq Governing Council orders the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK) to leave Iraq by the end of year citing its “black history” in Iraq as a “terrorist organization,”—a reference to the militant organization's long history of working with Saddam Hussein (see 1991)(see December 2003). But Pentagon officials do not want the MEK to leave Iraq, as they are considering plans to use the group against Iran. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/2003]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Mujahedeen-e Khalq
          

June 2004: Several Senators Demand Ashcroft Explain al-Marabh's Deportation Decision      Complete 911 Timeline

       The Associated Press reports that both Republicans and Democrats have expressed outrage that al-Marabh was deported in January. Several senators have written letters to Attorney General Ashcroft, demanding an explanation. Charles Grassley (R) states that the circumstances of al-Marabh's deportation—who was “at one time No. 27 on the [FBI] list of Most Wanted Terrorists” —are “of deep concern and appear to be a departure from an aggressive, proactive approach to the war on terrorism.” Patrick Leahy (D) wrote to Ashcroft that “The odd handling of this case raises questions that deserve answers from the Justice Department. ... Why was a suspected terrorist returned to a country that sponsors terrorism? We need to know that the safety of the American people and our strategic goals in countering terrorism are paramount factors when decisions like this are made.” [Associated Press, 6/30/04]
People and organizations involved: Charles Grassley, Patrick Leahy, John Ashcroft, Nabil al-Marabh, US Department of Justice
          

June 8, 2004      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       Attorney General John Ashcroft tells a Senate committee, “This administration rejects torture.” [The Guardian, 6/9/2004] When asked whether torture might be justified in certain situations, Ashcroft responds, “I condemn torture. I don't think it's productive, let alone justified.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004] With regard to President Bush's involvement, he says: “Let me completely reject the notion that anything that this president has done or the Justice Department has done has directly resulted in the kind of atrocity which were cited. That is false.” [The Guardian, 6/9/2004] Ashcroft adds, “There is no presidential order immunizing torture.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, John Ashcroft
          

January 6, 2005      Torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

       Alberto R. Gonzales tells the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearings that there had been some discussion within the administration about trying to rewrite the Geneva Conventions. “We are fighting a new type of enemy and a new type of war,” he says. “Geneva was ratified in 1949 ... and I think it is appropriate to revisit whether or not Geneva should be revisited. Now I'm not suggesting that the principles of Geneva regarding basic treatment—basic decent treatment of human beings—should be revisited .... That should always be the basis on which we look at this. But I am aware there's been some very preliminary discussion as to whether or not—is this something that we ought to look at.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/7/2005] During the hearing, Gonzales is grilled on his involvement in the administration's decision to allow aggressive interrogations of terrorism detainees. Critics believe the interrogation policy developed by Gonzales and his colleagues created the conditions that allowed abuses, such as those at Abu Ghraib, to occur. Senator Edward Kennedy tells Gonzales: “It appears that legal positions that you have supported have been used by the administration, the military, and the CIA to justify torture and Geneva Convention violations by military and civilian personnel.” [Associated Press, 1/6/2006] Retired Adm. John Hutson, a former Navy judge advocate general (JAG) who testifies as a witness at the hearing, says, “I believe that the prisoners' abuses that we've seen ... found their genesis in the decision to get cute with the Geneva convention.” [Reuters, 1/7/2005] At certain points during the hearing, Gonzales demonstrates an apparent lack of understanding about US and international law. When he is asked if he thinks other world leaders can legitimately torture US citizens, he answers, “I don't know what laws other world leaders would be bound by.” On another occasion he is asked whether “US personnel [can] legally engage in torture under any circumstances,” to which he answers, “I don't believe so, but I'd want to get back to you on that.” He also asked whether he agrees with John Ashcroft's judgment that torture should not be used because it produces nothing of value. Gonzales responds: “I don't have a way of reaching a conclusion on that.” [Washington Post (Editorial), 1/7/2005]
People and organizations involved: John Ashcroft, Alberto R. Gonzales, John D. Hutson, Edward Kennedy
          

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