RealNews

On Terror and Spying, Ashcroft Expands Reach

In the bureaucratic reshuffling over domestic security, Attorney General John Ashcroft came out a winner. Mr. Ashcroft grabbed control of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and with it an issue dear to his conservative agenda, guns. And he shucked responsibility for two areas of law enforcement that had brought ridicule to the Justice Department, the color-coded threat alert system and immigration. In recent months, Mr. Ashcroft, once regarded as a peripheral, even clumsy, player in the Bush administration, has not only honed his skills as a bureaucratic infighter, he has also patched his tenuous relations with President Bush, who told Mr. Ashcroft last month that he was doing “a fabulous job.” With the addition of nearly 5,000 law enforcement officials from the firearms bureau, Mr. Ashcroft has again expanded the policing authority of the Justice Department, a hallmark of his tenure as attorney general. And with the fight against terrorism as his soapbox, he has pushed the powers of federal law enforcement in directions few thought possible before the Sept. 11 attacks. His reach extends not only to counterterrorism, but also to issues like the death penalty and gun policy, which he attacks with equal aggressiveness. Despite a years-long effort as a senator from Missouri to shrink government, Mr. Ashcroft has significantly broadened the reach of the attorney general, legal scholars and law enforcement officials agree. Full Story

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