The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

4 October 2006

Ashcroft on the whistlestop tour

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft will be in town next week: he'll be signing copies of his new book Never Again. And this book might draw rather a lot of interest locally, since one of the chapters is titled "The Botched Prosecution of Timothy McVeigh."

Nolan Clay reports in the Oklahoman:

He criticized prosecutors, writing they were overly generous to the defense in the first place. He said prosecutors agreed to provide materials not normally given to criminal defendants, causing the later confusion.

"What the law requires is plenty good in American justice," he said Monday in a phone interview from New York. "When the Justice Department goes above and beyond what the law requires, we get ourselves in trouble.... We significantly elevated the risks of disruption, which I think were unnecessary."

He also said the documents mistake [which delayed McVeigh's execution by approximately one month] was a lesson to him that the FBI needed reform.

The prosecution was not impressed:

Prosecutors scoffed at the criticism. They said they gave the defense "unprecedented discovery" because they wanted the public to be assured the government wasn't hiding anything, particularly since the case was one of the first high-profile ones after the controversial O.J. Simpson murder trial.

"It was a decision shared by every member of the prosecution team, including the attorney general at the time.... Ashcroft's view is fine for day-to-day drug buys, but this was the criminal justice system on trial," former prosecutor Larry Mackey said.

Not all of the public was so assured.

Ashcroft also noted that he was concerned about McVeigh's post-execution reputation:

He also revealed authorities feared the execution would inspire other terrorists to act on an anniversary of McVeigh's death. He wrote that the government limited McVeigh's access to the media in the months before the execution to keep him from becoming a symbol.

In that, at least, they were successful: the only mentions McVeigh gets these days are from apologists for Islam, who are anxious to point out that McVeigh, unlike ninety-nine-point-something percent of modern-day terrorists, was not in fact a Muslim.

Ashcroft will be appearing at the Wal-Mart Supercenter (!) in Edmond on Wednesday, 11 October, at noon. Note to women: you might want to be careful with the cleavage.

Posted at 7:42 AM to Soonerland