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Ashcroft to Kill Carnivore?

By Malicose in MLP
Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 08:46:31 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

Kevin Poulsen of SecurityFocus delves into some of attorney general nominee John Ashcroft's privacy protection history in "Justice pick is pro-crypto." According to the article, Ashcroft opposed the FBI's attempts at a government agency that would hold and make available encryption keys to law enforcement officers with a court order.

EPIC's David Sobel has praised a previous Ashcroft privacy bill and meetings with privacy groups, but is unsure whether or not his position will change as attorney general: "A lot of pressures are going to brought to bear on him as attorney general that weren't as senator." Another privacy lobbyist who's worked with Ashcroft added, "Being in the Senate is different from being the attorney general, and owing his position to the conservatives and their inclinations. I don't yet know what that means."

As head of the U.S. Department of Justice, Ashcroft--if confirmed by Congress--would be next to face the FBI's controversial online surveillance practices, including Carnivore. Though he skipped last September's Carnivore hearing, his former technology aid, Bartlett Cleland, says, "I wouldn't be surprised at all if Ashcroft asked for a temporary prohibition on use of Carnivore." Could this lead to a new federal law defining or upholding the rights of online privacy, especially those dealing with encryption?


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Will Ashcroft protect Americans' freedom to communicate privately?
o Aye 32%
o Nay 32%
o Undecided 34%

Votes: 43
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o SecurityFo cus
o "Justice pick is pro-crypto."
o Also by Malicose

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Ashcroft to Kill Carnivore? | 20 comments (11 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
Poll Question (4.33 / 3) (#10)
by finkployd on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 08:53:34 PM EST

Will Ashcroft protect our freedom and privacy? Why not just ask if someone is conservative or liberal? Conservatives like him and think he will, liberals hate him and think he won't. The only valid answer is "I don't know yet". We will have to wait and see.

Interesting that somebody can hold his own views that maybe don't all fit nicely into the narrow catagory of "liberal" or "conservative". Like him or hate him, this is good news. Perhaps Bush's administration will have some common sense legislation after all (all the conservatives cry "YES" and all the liberals cry "NO"), we will have to wait and see. I find this slightly encouraging though. It would be a nice change after the decidedly anti-privacy Clinton administration (clipper chip anyone?)

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It's a nice thought, but . . . (4.00 / 3) (#11)
by MTDilbert on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 09:40:37 PM EST

Much ado is made over Ashcroft's alleged racism for his opposition to Ronnie White. And once the racism flag is waved, that's all she wrote, kids. If Ashcroft is anything, he is a strict constructionist (and sometimes a little runny around the mouth.) His philosophy clearly shows that he favors a judiciary that upholds the law, and doesn't try to rewrite it, which is why liberals collectively shudder.

Frankly, I doubt that Ashcroft will be confirmed. He is too conservative, and the Democrats in the Senate will use his nomination to score political points. (IMHO)

In short, it's a moot point.

Don't mod me down because you disagree. Show me the error of my ways.

Strict Constructionists (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by metachimp on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 03:23:16 PM EST

As far as I can tell, that means that if it wasn't in the original constitution, it ain't legit. That goes for things like a right to privacy, affirmative action, public schools, etc. I don't think Ashcroft is a good choice for Attorney General, mainly because of his staunch anti-abortion stance. He's a social conservative, and opposed Ronnie White's appointment because White is pro-choice, and tends to uphold this in every way he can. The unwritten rule of the day is that one's stance on abortion cannot be used as a litmus test for appointments, so Ashcroft attacked White for being "pro-criminal" and "anti-victim's rights", which was a red herring. The administration is playing this down, but Ashcroft is a big man in the Christian Right, and if you're a libertarian, that should put you off, simply because he's against carnivore doesn't excuse his shortcomings in other areas.

[ Parent ]
Strict Constructionists (3.00 / 1) (#18)
by finkployd on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 03:52:39 PM EST

I've heard it two ways. I can mean what you said, or it can mean that if it IS covered in the Constitution, you can't make a law that contradicts or undermines the Constitution (the view I personally hold). I don't know many people who think the Constution should be the only word of law, just the last word.

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[ Parent ]
Nice (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by Ring Kichard on Mon Jan 08, 2001 at 11:00:12 PM EST

Ya know, I keep hearing all these terrible things about Ashcroft. As someone who didn't want GWB to be president, it's refreshing to hear that I may have been in error, atleast on some things.

If Ashcroft protects privacy, and the rest of the "big 10" freedoms, I'll be a happy man. A happy *surprised* man.

Surprised? Yes. Not because I'd doubted Ashcroft's commitment to the law (I don't really know they guy) but surprised that I'd never heard of his commitment to the crypto issue.

Of course, I'd never heard "crypto" anywhere but online.

Maybe the real hero of this whole thing is security focus, and all the other pages like it, pushing the envalope.


"The meek shall inherit the Earth -- The rest of us will go to the stars."
Nice, but crypto isn't everything. (3.50 / 2) (#13)
by YellowBook on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 09:47:09 AM EST

I know I'm going to get flamed for this, since it's a little off-topic, but I have to say that one's stance on crypto is not the defining measure of one's character, or even of one's commitment to freedom of speech.

The reason liberals and moderates are up in arms over Ashcroft's nomination is that as Attorney General, he would be in charge of enforcing federal civil rights laws, yet as a senator, he showed no interest in upholding those laws. There's a good overview of his positions at Issues 2000. They boil down to:

  • Against affirmative action
  • Blocked appointment of African-American judge in Missouri
  • Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation
  • Voted NO on setting aside 10% of highway funds for construction businesses owned by minorities and women
  • Voted YES on ending funding for minority and women-owned business
  • Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation
  • Voted YES on amendment to prohibit flag burning

Now, I know a fair proportion of K5's readership is right-libertarian, and so may agree with Ashcroft on affirmative action, and the more hardcore right-libs may agree with him on allowing job discrimination by sexual orientation (with the idea that employers should be able to choose employees on any criteria that they want, even irrational ones), but flag burning?

I haven't managed to dig up quite as good a dossier in terms of his votes on civil liberties issues that don't directly involve civil rights, but one measure is that he only has a 22% rating from the ACLU, America's premier civil liberties organization. Some of the reasons for this are:

  • voted AGAINST preserving habeas corpus rights in cases covered by the counter-terrorism bill
  • voted FOR the Communications Decency Act
  • voted to deny federal recognition of same-sex marriages, even when that marriage is recognized by the couple's home state
  • voted AGAINST privacy of medical records, and for procedures by which government and businesses can get your confidential medical information without your consent.
  • voted FOR the counter-terrorism act, which increased the powers of law enforcement in the name of fighting terrorism. Notably, the measure gave the government the right to use secret evidence to deport immigrants it accuses of being members of terrorist organizations.

Basically, Ashcroft is no friend of privacy or free speech, and he supports increasing the power and decreasing the accountability of law enforcement every bit as much as Janet Reno and the Clinton administration. Don't let one bit of good news give you an overall positive opinion of the man.

Question (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by finkployd on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 01:30:32 PM EST

The one item that is most used to attack this guy:

Blocked appointment of African-American judge in Missouri

So I ask, in all seriousness, when it is ok to oppose the appointment on a black judge? Or is that something that is never permissable under any circumstances? Just that alone means nothing, since how many Democrats attempted to block the appointment of Thomas to the Supreme court? Were they racist?

As for his voting record, this also tells us nothing, thanks to the screwed up system of legislation we have. How many of us opposed a bill in the last congress that was written to give medals to civilians who exibited great public services? Pretty much all of us considering that bill had an amendment that expanded the government's electronic wiretapping and confiscation powers. What makes you think that these bills only did what the title of them said?

You know, sometimes it seems these bills are written with the intention of failing. Write a bill that bans kicking kittens and puppies and tack on an amendment that the other party disagrees with, and when they vote against it, claim they support beating small cute animals.

I'm not saying that's what happened here, I honestly don't know. I'm just saying that voting record doesn't tell the whole story, it would be nice to see if Ashcroft defended his votes and on what grounds. Anybody know anything substancial (ie. more than the media's sound bites) about this?

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[ Parent ]
Ashcroft's "Racism" (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by Malicose on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 03:52:49 PM EST

Kris W. Kobach, a professor of constitutional law and legislation at the University of Missouri, has an op-ed piece titled "Ashcroft's Real Record" at the New York Post. Here's a couple points of the whole truth concerning Ashcroft's "racially motivated" record:
  • As a Senator, he voted in favor of 26 of the 28 black judicial nominees President Clinton put forward.
  • During his two years as governor, Ashcroft appointed eight black to state judicial positions. Kobach details this impressive record:

    "In Missouri, non-partisan judicial nominating commissions present to the governor a panel of three possible choices for each judicial office. . . . if none of the three candidates is African-American, the governor can't make such an appointment."

    It gets even better: "Given the choice, Ashcroft virtually always chose the African-American candidate. On only one occasion did he select a white over an African-American - and in that case, he named the candidates who were not selected to fill later judicial openings."

Reading this excellent piece will squeltch anyone's concerns that Ashcroft is a racist politician.

[ Parent ]
Bah (3.66 / 3) (#15)
by simmons75 on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 01:58:38 PM EST

>Now, I know a fair proportion of K5's readership is

That's funny; I don't recall you polling me on this one. Did I miss the poll?

Just remember that your bulleted list is written in fairly reactionary language, and that, for that reason, I must ignore your bulleted list.

I'm not the biggest Ashcroft fan, but issues like giving extra funding to minority/women-owned businesses...it's an insult. It says to minorities and women, "Look, we know you can't run a business as well as a white man, so we're going to bail you out." Besides, our nation is supposed to treat everyone equally. All or nothing.

>Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual

That one I have to take issue with, too. That one's as potentially dangerous as the affirmative action quotas. It opens a door for people to claim discrimination in cases where none exists.
So there.

[ Parent ]
Hahaha, irony (none / 0) (#20)
by Spendocrat on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 04:49:23 AM EST

Oh goodness, reactionary langauge. Oh the horror!

[ Parent ]
One last thing: (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by finkployd on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 03:49:10 PM EST

ACLU, America's premier civil liberties organization.

So long as you staunchly support the first amendment as absolute, but think the second amendment needs tight restrictions (or needs to be dropped altogether). Let's not pretend the ACLU is not partisian or slanted toward the left. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it's would be the same if I said the NRA is America's premier civil liberties organization. Each defends their own views, ironically they also compliment each other to provide a pretty inclusive defense of civil liverties.

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[ Parent ]
Ashcroft to Kill Carnivore? | 20 comments (11 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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