Ashcroft says critics of tough terror policies are few
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft suggested Friday that critics of some the administration's policies in the war on terrorism are in the minority and he accused them of "eagerly assuming the worst of their government."
Speaking at an awards ceremony for law enforcement agencies, Ashcroft defended the administration's efforts as deliberate, coordinated and "carefully crafted to not only protect America, but to respect the Constitution" and its associated rights.
Some lawmakers, pundits and advocacy groups have criticized steps taken by President Bush in the war on terrorism, saying they erode the nation's civil liberties. In particular, they cite his order allowing military tribunals to try non-U.S. suspected terrorists, the Justice Department's decision to monitor phone conversations between attorneys and their clients in terrorism cases, the widespread detention of suspects and immigration violators, and the "voluntary" questioning of roughly 5,000 young, male non-U.S. nationals in the United States.
"Some have sought to condemn us with faulty facts or without facts at all," Ashcroft said. "Others have simply rushed to judgment, almost eagerly assuming the worst of their government before they've had a chance to understand it at its best. But these voices of negativism cannot obscure the chorus of freedom that is the gathering force in the world today."
On Thursday, Bush gave a spirited defense of his decision to allow military tribunals in cases of non-U.S. citizens accused of terrorism.
"We're an open society, but we're at war. ... We must not let foreign enemies use the forms of liberty to destroy liberty itself," Bush said.
"If I determine that it is in the national security interests of our great land to try by military commissions those who make war on America, then we will do so," Bush said, winning applause from a conference of federal prosecutors.
The president himself will make the decision on a "case-by-case" basis about which suspects should face such tribunals, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said.
Polls appear to back Ashcroft's contention that critics of the administration's policies as they relate to terrorism are in the minority.
For example, one poll released by National Public Radio found widespread support for Bush's decision to allow the use of military tribunals.
Sixty-four percent of those polled said they support for such tribunals and 25 percent said people accused of being terrorists should have fewer rights.
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