John David Ashcroft
Ashcroft was educated in Springfield, Missouri, and at Yale University, where he graduated in 1964. He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago in 1967, and briefly taught business law at Southwest Missouri State University.
He began his career in Missouri government in 1973. He was Governor of Missouri from 1985 to 1993. In 1994 he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, where he became a leading opponent of the Clinton Administration's Clipper encryption restrictions. He ran for reelection in 2000 against then-Governor Mel Carnahan, who died in an airplane crash about two weeks before the election. Due to Missouri state election laws, Carnahan's name could not be removed from the ballot, and his wife, Jean Carnahan, announced that she would serve in her husband's place should he be elected. Carnahan won the election with her late husband's name still on the ballot. Following his defeat, Ashcroft was nominated as U.S. Attorney General by president-elect George W. Bush in December 2000. Despite some contention from Democrats, Ashcroft was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 58-42.
Ashcroft worships in the Assembly of God church. Whenever he was sworn in to any political office, he had himself anointed with cooking oil.
Ashcroft is noted for ordering that the partially nude statues of Liberty and Justice, which stands in a meeting room where he held press conferences, be covered with curtains. Ashcroft denied these allegations however. It has also been said that this action was taken because he felt that reporters were photographing him alongside the statues to make fun of his church's opposition to "pornography".
Ashcroft is considered a leading member of the Christian right wing of the Republican Party and is one of the highest-ranked representatives of that group in the Bush Administration. Ashcroft's religious beliefs have led opponents, including Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), to question his ability to effectively enforce certain laws, especially those pertaining to abortion. Ashcroft maintained that he will enforce laws whether he agrees with them or not.
Immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Ashcroft prepared the Patriot Act - a huge bill that granted sweeping and unprecedented power to law enforcement officials. One of his primary counselors during this time was Adam G. Ciongoli.
In July 2002, Ashcroft proposed the creation of Operation TIPS, a domestic program in which workers and government employees would inform law enforcement agencies about suspicious behavior they encounter while performing their duties. The program was widely criticized in the media as an encroachment upon the First and Fourth Amendments, and the United States Postal Service balked at the program, refusing outright to participate. Ashcroft defended the program as a necessary component of the ongoing War on Terrorism, but the proposal was eventually abandoned.
Ashcroft's positions on privacy, civil liberties and anti-terrorism measures made him an extremely controversial figure, and groups opposed to the Bush administration often used him as a shorthand reference for all the reasons they opposed him. Some of his most prominent critics were organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and pro-choice groups. Many liberal commentators claimed that Ashcroft used the threat of terrorism to further political goals; one prominent example was a news conference held in May of 2004, which critics claimed was an attempt to distract attention from a drop in the approval ratings of President Bush, who at the time was campaigning for re-election.
Ashcroft's opponents allege that he used the threat of terrorism as a justification for unnecessarily restricting civil liberties. Some of those opponents have perjoratively labeled his polices as "Ashcroftism." Publications such as workers.org refer to him as "Grand Inquisitor" Ashcroft.
In May 2004, Ashcroft entered the George Washington Medical Center with gallstone pancreatitis; surgeons removed his gallbladder (cholecystectomy) within a week.
On November 9, 2004 Ashcroft resigned his post as Attorney General effective upon the Senate confirmation of his successor, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales. His resignation letter claimed: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved." The letter was hand-written in order to maintain confidentiality.
- There's a difference between a culture that has no king but Caesar, no standard but the civil authority, and a culture that has no king but Jesus, no standard but the eternal authority. When you have no king but Caesar, you release Barabbas -- criminality, destruction, thievery, the lowest and least. When you have no king but Jesus, you release the eternal, you release the highest and best, you release virtue, you release potential.
It is not accidental that America has been the home of the brave and the land of the free, the place where mankind has had the greatest of all opportunities, to approach the potential that God has placed within us. It has been because we knew that we were endowed not by the king, but by the Creator, with certain unalienable rights. If America is to be great in the future, it will be if we understand that our source is not civic and temporal, but our source is godly and eternal. Endowed by the Creator with rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I thank God for this institution and for you, who recognize and commit yourselves to the proposition that we were so created, and that to live with respect to the Creator promises us the greatest potential as a nation and as individuals. And for such we must reacquaint ourselves daily with His call upon our lives.
- at Bob Jones University, January 12, 2001
- The Clinton administration would like the Federal government to have the capability to read any international or domestic computer communications. The FBI wants access to decode, digest, and discuss financial transactions, personal e-mail, and proprietary information sent abroad -- all in the name of national security. To accomplish this, President Clinton would like government agencies to have the keys for decoding all exported U.S. software and Internet communications.<p>This proposed policy raises obvious concerns about Americans' privacy, in addition to tampering with the competitive advantage that our U.S. software companies currently enjoy in the field of encryption technology. Not only would Big Brother be looming over the shoulders of international cyber-surfers, but the administration threatens to render our state-of-the-art computer software engineers obsolete and unemployed.<p>There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?<p>The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state's interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens' Bill of Rights.
- USIA Electronic Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4, October 1997 (emphasis added)
- ASHCROFT, John David from Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-Present
- John Ashcroft's Take on Washboarding as Torture
- CNN video of John Ashcroft singing a rendition of 'Let the eagle soar' at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in February 2002: