With Attorney General John Ashcroft testifying before the 9/11 Commission today, a quick analysis of his previous statements shows he has repeatedly lied to Congress about the Bush Administration’s counterterrorism record. Specifically, when questioned by Congress in 2002 about why he tried to de-prioritize and slash funding for counterterrorism before 9/11, Ashcroft resorted to dishonest denials — even in the face of budget documents that proved he was not telling the truth.
For instance, in testimony before the House of Representatives, Ashcroft said that before 9/11, his “number-one goal” at the Justice Department “was the prevention of terrorist acts” and that he immediately “began to shape the department and its efforts in that respect”1. But according to the Washington Post, internal Administration documents from before 9/11 “show that Ashcroft ranked counterterrorism efforts as a lower priority than his predecessor did”2. The documents “indicate that before Sept. 11, Ashcroft did not give terrorism top billing in his strategic plans for the Justice Department, which includes the FBI. A draft of Ashcroft’s ‘Strategic Plan’ from Aug. 9, 2001, does not put fighting terrorism as one of the department’s seven goals, ranking it as a sub-goal beneath gun violence and drugs.”
Ashcroft tried to blame his negligence of counterterrorism on the previous Administration, telling Congress that “the five-year plan that had been put in place by my predecessor didn’t mention counterterrorism”3. But according to the New York Times, “the plan issued by Attorney General Janet Reno in 2000 said the Justice Department would have to devote more attention and resources to terrorism, citing sophisticated computer and bomb-making technology and the ’emerging threats of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons'”4.
Ashcroft has even been dishonest about events after 9/11, telling Congress that when the Administration was writing the emergency counterterrorism funding bill after the attacks, the FBI “came to me with a $670 million request, and we counseled them to take that to $1.1 billion”5. But according to the Washington Post, “In the early days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush White House cut by nearly two-thirds an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI… The document, dated Oct. 12, 2001, shows that the FBI requested $1.5 billion in additional funds to enhance its counterterrorism efforts with the creation of 2,024 positions. But the White House Office of Management and Budget cut that request to $531 million”6. Ashcroft “cut the FBI’s request for items such as computer networking and foreign language intercepts by half, cut a cyber-security request by three quarters and eliminated entirely a request for ‘collaborative capabilities.'”
1. Attorney General John Ashcroft testimony, 02/28/2002.
2. “FBI Budget Squeezed After 9/11”, Washington Post, 02/22/2004.
3. Attorney General John Ashcroft testimony, 02/28/2002.
4. New York Times, 03/01/2002.
5. Attorney General John Ashcroft testimony, 02/28/2002.
6. “FBI Budget Squeezed After 9/11”, Washington Post, 02/22/2004.