Feeds

Patriot Act tour carried a hefty price tag

Ashcroft spent $200,000

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

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?

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.