CPAC Honors Civilian Terror Trial Supporter John Ashcroft
For the past two days, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has served as a forum for bashing President Obama's policies. Speakers have included former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz, both of whom are strident critics of the Obama administration's counterterrorism efforts. As ThinkProgress observed yesterday, "the crowd went nuts" when the former vice president took the stage.
Therefore, it was somewhat odd to see former Attorney General John Ashcroft presented with the "Defender of the Constitution" award this afternoon. While introducing the award, radio host Scott Hennen pined for the days when Ashcroft was attorney general. "Sadly, elections have consequences, and now we have Eric Holder and Mirandizing terrorists," he said. Watch:
Left out, of course, was the fact that the Bush-Cheney justice department under Ashcroft also read Miranda rights to terror suspects, including shoe-bomber Richard Reid. In 2005, Ashcroft's DOJ distributed a memo touting hundreds of terror convictions in U.S. courts. And, just a few hours before being honored, Ashcroft acknowledged that civilian terror trials have "use and utility."
In an acknowledgment that throws a wrench in Republican talking points, former Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Friday that the criminal justice system does, indeed, have a role to play in trying terrorist suspects.
In an interview with the Huffington Post at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the former Bush administration official said that there are "a variety of tools that ought to be available to an administration" in its efforts to curb terrorism and bring terrorists to justice.
Asked specifically about holding civilian trials for terrorists, he said such a venue "has use and utility."
Ironically, the award presentation was followed by a panel titled "Does Security Trump Freedom?" During the discussion, former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA) was booed after he defended civilian terror trials and denounced torture.