: Dan Gillmor has spent too much time out of the country going to weblog conferences. He gets back on our shores and goes batty over a Jimmy Breslin column decrying the Justice Department over the arrest and guilty plea of Lyman Faris.

Breslin does his usual hysterical rant.

Gillmor threatens to leave America and journalism:

The travesty is, first, that our government now operates a secret criminal justice system, because Congress doesn’t care enough about liberty to stop a power-mad Bush administration from tearing up the Constitution.

The second travesty, as Breslin trenchantly observes, is the spinelessness of my chosen profession. I am ashamed to be a journalist when I realize how far down the road we have gone toward utter deference to power.

Why are journalists not screaming bloody murder about this case? Sloth no longer suffices to explain our negligence?

I cringe for my profession. I fear for America.

Easy, boy.

This is what Time magazine says about Faris, without all the emotion:

Iyman Faris, 34, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Kashmir, had pleaded guilty at the beginning of May to providing material support to al-Qaeda. Not only had he scoped out the Brooklyn Bridge as part of a plot to destroy the New York City landmark, but he had also tried to obtain equipment to help derail a train near the nation’s capital. The feds had done more than nab a truck driver from Columbus, Ohio, who was leading what Ashcroft called “a secret double life,” a man determined to wreak havoc right here in the U.S. They had turned one of Osama bin Laden’s loyal foot soldiers into another breed entirely: double agent for the U.S.

Now I think John Ashcroft is a dangerous fanatic but that’s not the issue here.

The Justice Department did good work. They nabbed an al-Qaeda operative who was trying to launch more terrorist attacks; they stopped him from attacking; and they used him to gain more sorely needed terrorist intelligence. This will save lives.

That’s what you do in a war. That’s what you do with criminals. The guy pleaded guilty. He sang like a mafia rat because they had the goods on him. He made a deal. And we got the good end of that deal, as well we should.

Twice last week, I talked with people from the West Coast, who seemed to be downplaying the ongoing impact of terrorism on America.

Well, here on the East Coast, we still take terrorism very seriously. Look at that picture below, where the World Trade Center used to be. Now tell me it was a bad thing that we got a confederate of the people who did that, a man who planned to do more of the same, a man who could lead us to yet more of the slime.

I don’t think I’ll leave America, or journalism.

  • I agree with you on this one. I go farther then saying that John Ashcroft is a dangerous fanatic, though. But, as you say, that’s not the point.

  • D2D

    I am not a fan of Ashcroft’s either, but, “a dangerous fanatic” sounds somewhat hysterical. Ashcroft may be a little heavy handed but I don’t believe he’s fanatical. It is interesting that these assertions mostly come from those who worry about some “fanatic” destroying the first, fourth, and fifth admendments. And yet they want to repeal the second admendment. Go figure.
    This administration has shown restraint during a war that saw an attack on U.S. soil killing nearly 3000 people, and the likelihood of hundreds, if not thosands, of enemy combatants on American soil. Habeas Corpus has not been revoked as Lincoln did during the War Between the States. And thousands of American citizens have not been jailed illegally as Japanese-Americans were during the Second World War by Franklin Roosevelt, he also tried to subvert the constitution of the U.S. by attempting to pack the Supreme Court of the United States. No one then or today calls Franklin Roosevelt a fanatic when it’s painfully obvious, he was.

  • I agree with D2D, heavy handed is a more apt description and is what is needed for a few more years until we get the knack for following the terrorist bastards around without impinging on our own civil rights. That’s a fine line to walk in situation such as this and I prefer that they go a little overboard at first until they figure it out. That said, don’t forget to keep an eye on them, as they may forget to turn some safeguards off when no longer needed.

  • Sorry, but fanatical is to weak a term. Heavy handed is out of the strike zone. The man crafted and passed a law that is unconstitutional. He now wants to pass a second law which will be able to strip the citizenship of people without due process. He’s a dangerous fanatic who needs to be removed from his post.
    The man was beaten in a senate race by a dead guy, for crying out loud. That should tell you just how scary he is.

  • Ashcroft crafted a law? Not in his current position he didn’t — I do believe that attorney generals aren’t supposed to “craft” laws, but uphold the ones that the legislature crafts. Now, you may be referring to that Patriot thing. I have my own problems with it. But the “dangerous fanatic” stuff is overblown. We have had much worse, much more overzealous attorney generals than Ashcroft. Maybe he wasn’t the best person to pick for that position, and maybe he should be replaced, but it shouldn’t be just because people are afraid of his religious beliefs — which I think is where a lot of the “dangerous fanatic” stuff comes from.
    As for Ashcroft being outvoted by a dead guy — from what I recall, people voted for the dead guy’s wife — perhaps out of exaggerated sentiment, because the man died. (Witness all the boohooing and hysteria over Paul Wellstone’s death.)

  • mog

    http://abcnews.go.com/sections/world/US/alqaedaplea030619_statement.html the charges, his country of origin, when he became a citizen, even the name of his lawyer is here. Sounds like he is getting due process. And considering what he did, stripping his citizenship might be a good thing.

  • growler

    The London Daily Telegraph reports:
    They did not say that Faris, who was also ordered to study ultralight aircraft, and the possibility of derailing a train into a chemical storage facility in Washington, had been under FBI control for months.
    Installed in a safe house in Virginia, Faris sent messages to his terrorist commanders by mobile phone and email. “He was sitting in the safe house making calls for us. It was a huge triumph,” a senior Bush administration official told Time.
    After pleading guilty to offering material support to al-Qa’eda, Faris will be sentenced in August. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

    That right there seems to me to flush Breslin’s argument down the toilet. He really should quit drinking.

  • Mr. Rootbeer

    I was surprise to learn that Ashcroft crafted a law all by himself… I was absolutely floored when I found out he PASSED the law all by himself too. Who knew he had the power to do that???