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Since this is the season of nominations – Grammies, Oscars, etc. – it’s time for me to disclose my choice for the winner of “The Most Outrageous Statement of the Year.”


Here’s the statement: George W. Bush has been "most respectful in terms of respecting the civil liberties and rights of individuals while engaged in the important task of fighting for freedom." The president “respects liberty so profoundly that he has protected it and has safeguarded civil liberties more than any other president in wartime that I know of.”


And the maker of that statement?

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Here’s a hint: He’s something of a singer – “Let The Eagle Soar” is among his favorites. And he’s also something of a prude: The government department he headed spent $8,000 on blue drapes to hide two giant, semi-nude art deco statues, one a female representing the “Spirit of Justice”, with its arms raised and a toga draped over its body, but a single breast exposed; the other a man depicting the “Majesty of Law” with a cloth covering his midsection.


You guessed it: Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.


Speaking to hundreds of Missouri Republicans attending the party's statewide Lincoln Days festivities last weekend, the one-time Missouri governor and senator said the president has been using security measures to protect freedoms, not to curb freedom.

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"It is stunning to me that when the president of the United States, George W. Bush, simply says that we need to be able to monitor calls being made to terrorist territories, known geographies that are the source of terrorist activities, or known terrorists who are making calls into the United States … that some people see it as an infringement somehow, " Ashcroft said.


But how much credibility does the Bush first-term Attorney General have on the subject of protecting civil liberties and the rule of law?


Isn’t this the same guy who pressured Congress to hurriedly enact the USA Patriot Act, which gave astonishing powers to federal agencies to dramatically increase the government's surveillance, search-and-seizure and wiretapping authority?


Isn’t this the same guy who authorized DOJ officials to monitor the discussions that attorneys have with clients who are in federal custody, including those detained, but not charged with a criminal offense in violation of the First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the Constitution?


Who rounded up and imprisoned over 1200 men of Middle Eastern descent based largely on pretextual immigration violations and refused to disclose their identity and location and the reason for their detention, while denying them fundamental due process rights? (The roundup produced some deportations, but NO criminal convictions.)


Who sought to question roughly 8,000 men of Middle Eastern descent, who were legal residents of the U.S., a flagrant form of racial profiling?

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Who imposed a policy of selectively enforcing deportation orders against men from Middle Eastern countries?


Who helped draft the presidential order that created secret military tribunals to  bypass the U.S. court system, contained significant due process violations, and allowed for the imposition of the death penalty?


Who initiated a project called Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System) to recruit and train a million volunteers (including postal workers, utility personnel and the like) in 10 cities who would be encouraged to report suspicious terrorist activity?

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William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)

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