John Ashcroft's First Year as Attorney General

Overly Broad Provisions

Ashcroft proposed to expand the definition of "terrorist activity" to include the use, or the threat to use, any "explosive, firearm, or other weapon or dangerous device" with the intent to endanger persons or property.26 Under this expanded definition, disturbances such as bar room brawls or rock throwing could be considered terrorist activities.

The proposal also did not distinguish between foreign or domestic organizations, so that anti-abortion or pro-environmental organizations that have ever, in the past, used or threatened to use a weapon against a person or property could be considered terrorist organizations. One critic said that the legislation "might make PETA a terrorist organization because one of its members hit the Secretary of Agriculture with a pie."27

Libertarian columnist Jacob Sullum noted that some provisions of the Ashcroft proposal "have little or nothing to do with terrorism. For instance, the bill allows the seizure of a defendant's assets before trial, even when the assets are not connected to the alleged offense. It also authorizes the government to seek warrants for 'sneak and peak' searches, conducted without notifying the target. Both sections apply to all criminal cases."28

Furthermore, the Ashcroft proposal contained a provision establishing "a DNA database for every person convicted of any felony or certain sex offenses," almost all of which are entirely unrelated to terrorism.29

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