Feeds

Patriot Act tour carried a hefty price tag

Ashcroft spent $200,000

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

He may not have trashed any hotel rooms, but US Attorney General John Ashcroft spent over $200,000 of taxpayers' money in a four-week, 31-city tour last year promoting the controversial USA PATRIOT Act, according to a report by Congressional auditors released Tuesday.

Ashcroft launched the PR effort in August 2003 in the face of growing criticism of the surveillance law, elements of which are set to expire next year.

The attorney general spent three weeks on the road visiting with public officials, local law enforcement and the media in such far-flung locales as Salt Lake City, Utah; Boise, Idaho; and Las Vegas, Nevada, hitting 14 states and 16 cities, including his Washington D.C. home base. At the end of September, he followed that up with a week of what the Justice Department called "Life and Liberty" travel, touting the importance of the USA PATRIOT Act in speeches in another 15 cities around the country.

No roadies are listed in the report, but anywhere from four to six senior Justice Department staffers accompanied Ashcroft on his travels. Counting 29 advance trips, flights for Ashcroft and his staff, conference room rentals and other expenses, the effort cost a total of $202,345.66. The bill for audio-video equipment rental alone exceeded $45,000 according to the report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress' investigative arm.

Another four thousand dollars went to set up the Justice Department's pro-USA PATRIOT Act site, lifeandliberty.gov.

The GAO report was produced at the request of Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. After auditors briefed Conyers on their findings last month, the lawmaker accused Ashcroft of violating federal laws that prohibit the executive branch from conducting "propaganda" or legislative lobbying with public money. He asked the Justice Department's Inspector General to open an investigation.

The 132-page USA PATRIOT Act increases federal policing and surveillance powers, among other things, and it passed with overwhelming support in Congress in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. But since then growing concerns about the potential for abuse have put the Justice Department on the defensive, and several legislative proposals would roll back, or provide more oversight for, the added surveillance powers.

Last month a federal judge struck down a statute modified by USA PATRIOT that allows the FBI to issue "National Security Letters" demanding customer records from Internet service providers and other businesses without a court order. Under USA PATRIOT, anyone's records can be targeted in a terrorism or espionage investigation, while previously such orders were limited to records of suspected terrorists or spies.

In a written response to the GAO report dated 6 October, the Justice Department claimed that the USA PATRIOT Act tour served the under-acknowledged secondary purpose of law enforcement information sharing. "This dialog between the Attorney General and state and local law enforcement occurred at nearly every stop during the Attorney General's travels," wrote Paul Corts, assistant attorney general for administration. "The Attorney General's staff took notes to record the input offered by state and local law enforcement and then followed up on these suggests and concerns afterwards."

Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus logo

Related stories

Judge defangs Patriot Act
US judge raises bar on net privacy
Will the US election matter to the IT sector?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.