Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ashcroft's Gremlin for Homeland Security

George Bush has nominated Michael Chertoff, Court of Appeals judge and former chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, as the next secretary of Homeland Security. In the mid-1990s, Chertoff was a special counsel for the US Senate's committee that investigated the Whitewater affair involving former President Bill Clinton.

The BBC reports that:

Mr Chertoff has been described as the driving force behind some of the most controversial initiatives in the war on terrorism, our correspondent adds.

Civil liberties groups have accused him of curtailing free speech and the rights of criminal defendants.

Well, you could say that...

Or, you could read this article from Counterpunch, June 2003, by Elaine Casset, who describes the latest nominee for the 'popular' post at Homeland Security as a "gremlin to watch, someone who is as intent on undermining the law and Constitution as Ashcroft."

What's so scary about Michael? Well, besides having no judicial experience and being a right-ring radical who does not believe in the Constitution and wants to rewrite federal law and rules of procedure on an ad hoc, case by case basis, as it suits him, nothing I guess.

Ms Casset points to the by now infamous prosecution for terrorism of Zacarias Moussaoui as a strong clue to Chertoff's philosophy on the law, when he tried to block trial judge Leonie Brinkema's ruling that Moussaoui and his lawyers had access to the government's star witnesses against him. This move, said Cassels, was clearly a blatant violation of violation of the Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses. The court also eventually blocked defence lawyer's access to witnesses who could have helped their case.

It looks very like Bush has found the perfect partner to Alberto "You can do anything you like, George" Gonzales.

Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News has some more on the Gremlin's contempt for due process.

It was Chertoff, as assistant atttorney general overseeing the initial 9/11 probe, who OK'ed and then defended the detention of hundreds of "material witnesses" of Arab descent -- even though it would later be determined that none -- that's right, none -- of the detainees had anything to do with the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Chartoff's actions during this period would later be roundly criticized in a report from the Justice Department's own Inspector General. It found that immigrants were rounded up in an "indiscriminate and haphazard manner," held for months while denied access to attorneys and sometimes mistreated behind bars.

The report noted that Chertoff "urged immigration officials to 'hold these people until we find out what's going on,' despite the fact that many had been swept up and detained on minor immigration charges."

Chertoff also pushed prosecutors and the FBI into greatly expanded use of domestic surveillance. In November 2002, according to this report, he "defended the need for government agencies to aggregate large amounts of personal information in computer databases for both law enforcement and national security purposes."

With Chertoff and Gonzales setting the tone for the administration's approach to the law and the Constitution, it seems like the USA will reach a new nadir in human rights.

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