Thursday, July 15, 2004

Watch Ashcroft Spin Those Patriot Act Convictions!

John Ashcroft released a 30-page piece of propaganda yesterday: "Report from the Field: The USA Patriot Act at Work."

Congress has asked for information about the use of the USA Patriot Act -- indictments, convictions, successes and failures -- as it determines whether to extend provisions that expire next year. Ashcroft has been reluctant to help, and instead issued what amounts to little more than a press release.

The conservative pundits will no doubt harp on a statistic in the report: 310 defendants have been charged with criminal offenses since 9/11, and 179 have been convicted.

Huzzah! You can almost hear Rush and Sean and Laura and Neil and the rest of the gang.

But something to note: The report doesn't make clear what those 310 people have been charged with, or what those 179 people have been convicted of.

Anecdotally, it would appear most of those arrests and convictions are unrelated to terrorism. A report in Newsweek a few months back suggested that two-thirds of the investigations undertaken as a result of the Patriot Act dealt with issues such as drug trafficking and bribery. I'm not suggesting drug trafficking should go unchecked, but the legal system as was certainly allowed for convictions of such crimes.

The report suggests there are two choices: extend the provisions as is (good) or revert to the way things used to be (bad -- boom -- watch out for Al Qaeda!!!) But the sane among us are proposing a third choice -- a middle ground that would better protect civil liberties, without eliminating the benefits of the act (such as improved communication between various law enforcement agencies).

Ashcroft is to busy protecting his turf to consider anything but allowing his fiefdom to reign. The conservative punditry no doubt will agree.



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