John Ashcroft on Homeland Security
Former Attorney General; Former Republican Senator (MO)
Major purpose of PATRIOT Act: eliminate "The Wall" at CIA
Putting the country on a war footing required more than just tightening our physical defenses. We needed better legal, financial, and intelligence tools to find the terrorists and stop them before it was too late.
One major gap in our counterterrorism
capabilities was what many called "the wall." Over time, the government had adopted a set of procedures that prevented law enforcement and intelligence personnel from sharing key information. "How can we possibly assure our citizens we are protecting the
if our own people can't even talk to each other?" I said.
Ashcroft took the lead in writing a legislative proposal. The result was the USA PATRIOT Act. The bill eliminated the wall and allowed law enforcement and intelligence personnel to share
information. It modernized our counterterrorism capabilities by giving investigators access to tools like roving wiretaps, which allowed them to track suspects who changed cell phone numbers--an authority that had long been used to catch drug traffickers
Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.160-161
, Nov 9, 2010
Introduced 5-color terror alert system in 2002
We introduced the Homeland Security Advisory System, later called the "terror alert system," in 2002. We settled on five levels represented by five colors: green (low risk), blue (general risk), yellow (significant risk), orange (high risk), & red (sever
risk). In each case, specific measures were to be taken at airports and public facilities. But we couldn't agree on where we were, colorwise, on the day we introduced the system. Ashcroft campaigned to open with orange, arguing that we were under siege.
Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p. 99-100
, Sep 1, 2009
2003: Be on the lookout for "Azzam the American"
On Memorial Day 2003, there was nothing new to report. I noted the same level of intelligence traffic, but concluded there was nothing that would require us to raise the threat level.
Later that afternoon, Ashcroft had a far different message. He went
to the airwaves to ask Americans to be on the lookout for Adam Yahiy Gadahn. Born Adam Pearlman, he appeared on a number of Al Qaeda videos, and was identified on these as "Azzam the American." He was subsequently charged in this country with treason.
But Ashcroft's warning that a plot that Gadahn and others were involved in--by Ashcroft's estimation, 90% done--a massive attack on the US, seemed to us at DHS to be overstated, to put it charitably.
I was told by the president bluntly that I had
undermined Ashcroft. I was reminded that counterterrorism is one of the administration's highest priorities, and that a unified front ad to be presented. The Department of Justice was unapologetic about playing offense. DHS played defense. Advantage DOJ.
Source: The Test of our Times, by Tom Ridge, p.228-229
, Sep 1, 2009
Advocated Guantanamo tribunals to test the court system
The hundreds of suspected terrorists who were detainees at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were unlawful combatants who could be tried in military tribunals and denied access to the US federal court system. This meant that they had been turned over
to the Defense Department, but Rumsfeld would not start the tribunal process.
Attorney General John Ashcroft had become a strong internal advocate for starting tribunals. One way or another, the detainee cases were going to wind up reviewed by the
federal courts. If they didn't have a credible tribunal process up and running, Ashcroft said, the Justice Department would be dead in the water when they tried to defend the system at the federal appeals courts.
At an NSC meeting with the president,
Bush asked Rumsfeld, "Don, what do you think about this?"
"They are bad guys," Rumsfeld said.
It was as if the NSC had one serious, formal process going on while the president and Rumsfeld had another one--informal, chatty and dominant.
Source: State of Denial, by Bob Woodward, p.276
, Oct 1, 2006
Voted NO on adopting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would ban nuclear weapons testing six months after ratification by the 44 nations that have nuclear power plants or nucelar research reactors.
Status: Resolution of Ratification Rejected Y)48; N)51; P)1
Reference: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty;
Bill Treaty Document #105-28
; vote number 1999-325
on Oct 13, 1999
Voted YES on allowing another round of military base closures.
Vote on an amendment to allow one round of military base closures beginning in 2001 as determined by an independent panel.
; vote number 1999-147
on May 26, 1999
Voted YES on cutting nuclear weapons below START levels.
The Kerrey (D-NE) amdt would strike bill language requiring that U.S. strategic nuclear forces remain at START I levels through the end of fiscal 2000 unless Russia ratified START II.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)56; N)44
Reference: Motion to table Kerrey Amdt #395;
Bill S. 1059
; vote number 1999-149
on May 26, 1999
Voted YES on deploying National Missile Defense ASAP.
Vote that the policy of the US is to deploy a National Missile Defense system capable of defending against limited ballistic missile attack as soon as it is technologically possible, and to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces.
Bill S 257
; vote number 1999-51
on Mar 17, 1999
Voted YES on military pay raise of 4.8%.
Vote to pass a bill to authorize a military pay raise of 4.8% in 2000 and annual pay increases through 2006 of 0.5% above the inflation rate. The bill would also provide additional incentives to certain enlisted personnel who remain on active duty.
; vote number 1999-26
on Feb 24, 1999
Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex basic training.
Byrd Amdt (D-WV) that would prohibit same-sex military barracks and basic training.
Status: Amdt Rejected Y)39; N)53; NV)8
Reference: Byrd Amdt #3011;
Bill S. 2057
; vote number 1998-180
on Jun 25, 1998
Voted NO on favoring 36 vetoed military projects.
Overturning line-item vetoes of 36 military projects vetoed by President Clinton.
Status: Bill Passed Y)69; N)30; NV)1
Reference: Line Item Veto Cancellation bill;
Bill S. 1292
; vote number 1997-287
on Oct 30, 1997
Voted NO on banning chemical weapons.
Approval of the chemical weapons ban.
Status: Resolution of Ratification Agreed to Y)74; N)26
Reference: Resolution of ratification of the Chemical (Comprehensive) Weapons (Convention) Ban;
Bill S. Res. 75
; vote number 1997-51
on Apr 24, 1997
Voted YES on considering deploying NMD, and amending ABM Treaty.
Vote to consider establishing a policy requiring the deployment of a national missile defense system by the end of 2003. The bill would also urge discussions with Russia to amend the ABM Treaty to allow deployment of the system.
Bill S 1635
; vote number 1996-157
on Jun 4, 1996
Voted YES on 1996 Defense Appropriations.
Approval of the 1996 Defense Appropriations bill.
Status: Bill Passed Y)62; N)35; NV)3
Reference: Defense Approps Bill FY 96;
Bill S. 1087
; vote number 1995-397
on Sep 5, 1995
Page last updated: Jan 13, 2017