(Extensions of Remarks - June 22, 2004)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1208]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                         HON. JOHN CONYERS, JR.

                              of michigan

                    in the house of representatives

                         Tuesday, June 22, 2004

  Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to enter into the 
Congressional Record the attached column by Paul Krugman in today's New 
York Times. Mr. Krugman describes how the Attorney General has 
politicized the war on terrorism.

                [From the New York Times, June 22, 2004]

                          Noonday in the Shade

                           (By Paul Krugman)

       In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted 
     what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the 
     small town of Noonday, Tex., F.B.I. agents discovered a 
     weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, 
     remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 
     60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon--a cyanide bomb--big 
     enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building.
       Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press 
     conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or 
     the arrest of William Krar, its owner. He didn't even issue a 
     press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. 
     Jose Padilla, the accused ``dirty bomber,'' didn't have any 
     bomb-making material or even a plausible way to acquire such 
     material, yet Mr. Ashcroft put him on front pages around the 
     world. Mr. Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet 
     Mr. Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.
       Incidentally, if Mr. Ashcroft's intention was to keep the 
     case low-profile, the media have been highly cooperative. To 
     this day, the Noonday conspiracy has received little national 
       At this point, I have the usual problem. Writing about John 
     Ashcroft poses the same difficulties as writing about the 
     Bush administration in general, only more so: the truth about 
     his malfeasance is so extreme that it's hard to avoid 
     sounding shrill.
       In this case, it sounds over the top to accuse Mr. Ashcroft 
     of trying to bury news about terrorists who don't fit his 
     preferred story line. Yet it's hard to believe that William 
     Krar wouldn't have become a household name if he had been a 
     Muslim, or even a leftist. Was Mr. Ashcroft, who once gave an 
     interview with Southern Partisan magazine in which he praised 
     ``Southern patriots'' like Jefferson Davis, reluctant to 
     publicize the case of a terrorist who happened to be a white 
       More important, is Mr. Ashcroft neglecting real threats to 
     the public because of his ideological biases?
       Mr. Krar's arrest was the result not of a determined law 
     enforcement effort against domestic terrorists, but of a 
     fluke: when he sent a package containing counterfeit U.N. and 
     Defense Intelligence Agency credentials to an associate in 
     New Jersey, it was delivered to the wrong address. Luckily, 
     the recipient opened the package and contacted the F.B.I. But 
     for that fluke, we might well have found ourselves facing 
     another Oklahoma City-type atrocity.
       The discovery of the Texas cyanide bomb should have served 
     as a wake-up call: 9/11 has focused our attention on the 
     threat from Islamic radicals, but murderous right-wing 
     fanatics are still out there. The concerns of the Justice 
     Department, however, appear to lie elsewhere. Two weeks ago a 
     representative of the F.B.I. appealed to an industry group 
     for help in combating what, he told the audience, the F.B.I. 
     regards as the country's leading domestic terrorist threat: 
     ecological and animal rights extremists.
       Even in the fight against foreign terrorists, Mr. 
     Ashcroft's political leanings have distorted policy. Mr. 
     Ashcroft is very close to the gun lobby--and these ties 
     evidently trump public protection. After 9/11, he ordered 
     that all government lists--including voter registration, 
     immigration and driver's license lists--be checked for links 
     to terrorists. All government lists, that is, except one: he 
     specifically prohibited the F.B.I from examining background 
     checks on gun purchasers.
       Mr. Ashcroft told Congress that the law prohibits the use 
     of those background checks for other purposes--but he didn't 
     tell Congress that his own staff had concluded that no such 
     prohibition exists. Mr. Ashcroft issued a directive, later 
     put into law requiring that records of background checks on 
     gun buyers be destroyed after only one business day.
       And we needn't imagine that Mr. Ashcroft was deeply 
     concerned about protecting the public's privacy. After all, a 
     few months ago he took the unprecedented step of subpoenaing 
     the hospital records of women who have had late-term 
       After my last piece on Mr. Ashcroft, some readers 
     questioned whether he is really the worst attorney general 
     ever. It's true that he has some stiff competition from the 
     likes of John Mitchell, who served under Richard Nixon. But 
     once the full record of his misdeeds in office is revealed, I 
     think Mr. Ashcroft will stand head and shoulders below the