Shock Horror! Ashcroft Am Not Devil Incarnate!
27 B Stroke 6 Threat Level, Kevin Poulsen writes, “News from Bizzaro World: Ashcroft Opposed Taps.”
Kevin, your reality tunnel is showing. There are many things that Ashcroft was (I apologize for using the past tense), starting with prig and prude. I’m not particularly a fan of his, but the Venn diagram of what he valued and what I value looks more like the Mastercard logo than the Hooters logo, and I don’t think that this is an ipso facto surrealism.
Back in 1998 as a Senator, Ashcroft was a supporter of Goodlatte’s SAFE (Security And Freedom through Encryption) Act, not to be confused with the 2003 “Security and Freedom Ensured” act, which was an attempted limitation of the PATRIOT Act. When that SAFE Act was destroyed in the House, he with Patrick Leahy and Conrad Burns introduced the E-PRIVACY (Encryption Promotes the Rights of Individuals in the Virtual Arena Using Computers) bill. Despite the fact that there was no “Y” in their acronym (perhaps it was a silent “Y’all”), it’s a pity it never was passed. The EFF gave a good news/bad news assessment with the good news being:
EFF is pleased to say that the E-PRIVACY Act is the most thoughtful piece of encryption legislation to date. Introduced by Senators John Ashcroft (R-Mo.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), and Conrad Burns (R-MT), the new bill sharply varies from proposals favored by the Clinton Administration and law enforcement/national security agencies by easing export controls on mass market encryption products, limiting government access to decryption keys, and prohibiting the government from requiring key recovery mechanisms.
The bad news was that it created a new crime of using encryption as part of a criminal act. I’m not in favor of that, but we got that part, and we never got the good news.
After E-PRIVACY never went anywhere, there was the 1999 PROTECT Act, and you can find Ashcroft saying it doesn’t go far enough fast enough.
Despite many quirks, such as being bothered by bare breasts, he favored bearing arms and clothing communications. His successor as AG, Alberto “Schultzie” Gonzales, often seems to be to be the incarnation of the cynical adage, “be careful what you ask for.” Take a look through the EFF archives from ’98, and feel a bit wistful. Read Dahllia Lithwick in Slate, and feel moreso. Ashcroft was a complex person with whom many of us had disagreements, not an inhabitant of Bizarro World.