October 3, 2006, - 8:41 am
By Debbie Schlussel
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft has a new book out, today, “Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice.” He began his media tour last night, on FOX News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor,” claiming he did so much to protect America from terrorists.
But the only thing I can never forget (and hope is “never again”) is how much John Ashcroft did to make us less safe from terrorists by crippling the U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Secret Service investigations into terrorist money-laundering. And how he made us less safe by urging his Justice Department to do whatever it took to overturn convictions against the Detroit terror cell and indict the brave prosecutor, Richard Convertino, who obtained the convictions. And he established preferences in the Justice Department for those who fit the profile of the 9/11 hijackers to get a special set of justice before the rest of us.
He talks a great game about how tough he was. But it’s just that–talk. If anyone did more to make America less secure and destroy justice, it was John Ashcroft.
That’s why the thought of Ashcroft writing such a book is a joke. And why we recommend skipping the blowhard pages of this phony. We look forward to the day the book goes to the bargain bin.
Here’s what Ashcroft did do:
* Ended most terrorism money-laundering investigations, allowing terrorists to easily fund attacks here and abroad.
Ashcroft took all terrorism investigations away from the Department of Homeland Security, rendering it an extremely neutered entity, and shutting down successful investigations into terrorism money laundering.
On May 13, 2003, after months of pressuring then-Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge, Ashcroft obtained Ridge’s signature on a “Memorandum of Agreement Between The Department of Justice and The Department of Homeland Security Concerning Terrorist Financing Investigations. The Agreement took all of those investigations away from the U.S. Customs Service Office of Investigations (then morphing into ICE-Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and the U.S. Secret Service and gave them to the most incompetent bloated federal law enforcement agency, the FBI. That, despite the fact that the FBI consistently has the lowest conviction rate among federal law enforcement agencies, and an abysmal record in capturing and convicting terrorists.
I’ve been a frequent critic of ICE Director of Investigations Marcy Forman-Friedman. But, before ICE, she headed Operation Greenquest, the Customs operation which successfully investigated and stopped a lot of the terrorist money-laundering trail. Not cowed by political correctness, Forman’s Greenquest was not only very successful, her agents investigated and raided–without apology to Islamists–several prominent Muslim charities. She has a lot to be proud of in her leadership of Greenquest.
Fed up FBI agents whom I know cheered when Customs Agents raided and shut down charities the FBI agents were investigating but were not allowed to pursue because of the pervasive do-nothing, political correctness attitudes that dominate their agency. Several agents told me they were happy Customs Agents did what they were not allowed to do at the FBI.
Forman-Friedman fought to keep the Greenquest program, but lost out to the power that Ashcroft exercised at the Bush White House. He took the program away and shut it down. Then-Secret Service chief W. Ralph Basham (now head of Customs and Border Protection) was equally miffed. On May 20, 2003, he wrote a classified memo to Tom Ridge protesting the agreement:
I am convinced that this Agreement unnecessarily and inexplicably alters the Secret Service’s historic criminal investigative mission. The Agreement is contradictory to the Secret Service’s explicit statutory mandate to prevent and investigate financial crimes and provides an unworkable framework for current and future financial crime investigations. . . . The Agreement also presents a multitude of practical problems that would severely jeopardize thousands of ongoing investigations and could compromise the federal government’s ability to effectively prevent future attacks against our financial and critical infrastructures.
Islamic terrorists and money-launderers engage in significant amounts of document, credit-card, bank, and other fraud, historically under the jurisdiction of the Secret Service. But since Ashcroft’s agreement, all of those such investigations involving terrorists were taken away from the Service. The FBI has done little in this area in the three years since.
Why did Ashcroft take the terror-funding investigative mandate away from agencies who did a great job in pursuing it? Perhaps the fact that Customs and Secret Service Agents showed up his FBI as emasculated in the War on Terror had something to do with it. To date, each agency, alone, confiscated more money related to terrorism than the FBI ever has.
Since then, the FBI has done scant little to stop terrorist money-laundering that Customs historically pounced upon, and in fact, evidence points to the fact that terrorist money-laundering to fund attacks has expanded, unchecked by withering FBI agents. ICE Agents are forbidden in many cases from pursuing money-laundering cases, because superiors tell them that terror-related cases will be scooped up from them by the FBI where they will languish forever.
* Let Islamic terrorists go free, persecuted the man who successfully convicted them, and lost most important terror cases.
In 2003, Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino obtained successful convictions of several Islamic terrorists. They apparently planned to blow up several American sites, including in Las Vegas, and the U.S. air base in Incirlik, Turkey, from which U.S. and Israeli F-16s and AWACS planes take off.
Ashcroft’s top terrorism officials, including Barry Sabin, got in Convertino’s way, every step of the way. They really didn’t want the terrorists prosecuted or for them to be convicted. Their actions indicate that, including Ashcroft’s personal violation of a court-ordered gag on the case. They gave Convertino no help and breathed down his neck.
When he convicted the terrorists, despite their obstacles, Ashcroft and company couldn’t handle it. Then-U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Collins was jealous, as were other Justice Department officials. So, they began a witch hunt, looking for information to overturn the case. They managed to find it and assaulted Convertino in the press, sabotaging the verdicts. Then, the USDOJ, in unprecedented moves, asked the judge to overturn the verdicts and indicted Convertino in the flimsiest of cases.
Ashcroft’s Justice Department also lost most other important terrorism cases on his watch, and those that had been developed on his watch, including the Sami Al-Arian case, the Sami Omar Al-Hussayen case, etc., etc., etc. Again, he had incompetent individuals, like Barry Sabin, running his counterterrorism operations.
* Instituted a Justice Department program that gives Muslims and Arabs more rights than all other Americans.
John Ashcroft is one of the people most instrumental in empowering extremist Muslims in America after 9/11. He did this by implementing “Initiative to Combat Post-9/11 Discriminatory Backlash,” a Justice “civil rights” program under which the most benign statements about Muslims in e-mails and online were prosecuted as hate-crimes. Since Ashcroft implemented this program, the Justice Department is clear that overzealously prosecuting free speech against Muslims is more important than going after terrorists, and the record bears that out. There are far more indictments and convictions under this absurd program than there are of terrorists.
From the Justice Department website:
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, members of these groups, and those perceived to be members of these groups, have been the victims of increased numbers of bias-related assaults, threats, vandalism and arson. Reducing the incidence of such attacks, and ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice, is a Civil Rights Division priority. The Division also has placed a priority on cases involving discrimination against Arab, Sikh, Muslim, and South-Asian Americans in employment, housing, education, access to public accommodations and facilities, and other areas within the Civil Rights Division’s jurisdiction.
The FBI has since harassed Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs over comments left on his blog. Ashcroft’s Justice Dept. arrested and indicted Michael Bratisax, a quadriplegic veteran in a wheelchair. His crime: He sent e-mails against Islam to extremist Imam Hassan Qazwini after Nicholas Berg was beheaded. Qazwini didn’t see the e-mails as threats, because he responded to them and engaged Bratisax in a discussion. Still, Ashcroft’s Justice Department sought jailtime for the wheelchair-bound man. Yes, because of Ashcroft, free speech for non-Muslims is dead in America.
But put the shoe on the other foot, and . . . nothing. I know. I got serious death threats from Muslims beginning in 2003. I reported them to the FBI and Justice Department. And I still haven’t seen a thing done to any of them. So what was that about Congress not establishing or preferring a national religion? Seems that part of the Constitution is dead, too. Thanks to John Ashcroft.
Most of this continues under Attorney General Gonzalez. But this is John Ashcroft’s unsung legacy. This is what we should “Never Again” about John Ashcroft. Don’t buy his phony book.
Tags: America, attorney, Attorney General, bank, Barry Sabin, Charles Johnson, chief, Civil Rights Division, Congress, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Homeland Security Concerning Terrorist Financing Investigations, Department of Justice, Director of Investigations Skip, F-16s, Federal Bureau of Investigation, federal government, federal law enforcement agencies, Federal Reserve System, Gonzalez, head, ICE Director, Imam Hassan Qazwini, Incirlik, incompetent bloated federal law enforcement agency, Jeffrey Collins, John Ashcroft, judge, Las Vegas, Marcy Forman, Marcy Forman-Friedman, Michael Bratisax, Nicholas Berg, Ralph Basham, Richard Convertino, Security Chief, then-Homeland security chief, Tom Ridge, Turkey, U.S. air base, U.S. Customs Service Office of Investigations, U.S. Secret Service, United States, United States Secret Service, W. Ralph Basham, White House