- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

Time magazine's choice of Rudy Giuliani as Person of the Year was excellent, much better than the whispered candidacy of Osama Bin Laden, a despised individual.
Rudy's choice was emblematic of the leadership and strength of character he displayed in the aftermath of the September 11 holocaust, and in reviving the spirit of a wounded city. He deserves our thanks and should be named to a major post in the federal government. I have recommended that he be nominated to head the new Transportation Security Administration where he could use his leadership skills to finally protect us.
But as in many situations, there is often an unsung hero, one whose courage is so great that most citizens are afraid to even mention his name lest they be tarred as totally out of fashion.
That unsung candidate is Attorney General John Ashcroft, whose roundup of suspected Middle Easterners has given America more than three months of total safety. Since September 11, except for the amateurish attempt by an apparent British national who is a probable member of al Qaeda, our nation has been safe, without any terrorist attacks in the sky, in the cities, in our ports, against our nuclear power plants.
This safety record is not due to the actions of most other administration officials. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta runs a dysfunctional department, as one can see by his politically correct comment that in checking passengers he pays as much attention to a 70-year-old American grandmother as to a young Middle Eastern man. The result has been an extremely porous airline security system.
Secretary of State Colin Powell has done a magnificent job in coalition-building, but his agency is also dysfunctional when it comes to public safety against terrorism. Lest he be considered biased, he continues to issue more than 150,000 visas a year to Middle Easterners and Muslim fundamentalists, the sole breeding ground for terrorists.
No, almost all the credit for the safety record since September 11 belongs to John Ashcroft.
Recognizing that democracies are normally unable to fight terrorism with their advanced civil liberties, trial by jury of their peers, and strict attorney-client relationships, he has bent the law perhaps even at points broken it to protect us from violent death.
There can hardly be more terrorism if most of the suspected terrorists are in jail unless the State Department keeps inviting in new ones. This hiatus in advanced civil liberties is what is protecting us from crippling death, including the possibility of nuclear dirty bombs that can kill millions.
Not only did the attorney general originally detain and question 1,200 Middle Easterners, but he has continued to hold more than 500, impervious to shouts from defense attorneys and some adolescent-minded organizations that he is the "Grand Inquisitor." He has also been impervious to criticism from such Senate holdouts as Sen. Russell Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, who has been traveling to colleges, asking for greater civil liberties for foreign visitors who may have come here to kill us.
Fortunately, most college students are more astute than the critics. When the official of a California state college in Sacramento stated that detaining Middle Eastern suspects was a violation of constitutional rights, the students so heckled her that she had to leave the podium.
Another courageous American, Abraham Lincoln, knew of the danger to nation from terrorism when he suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War and rounded up suspects. We need not go that far, but we must realize that since our enemy is fanatic Muslim fundamentalism, that the fewer there are of such visitors in America, and the more they are detained, questioned and deported, the safer we will all including American Muslims be.
This conflict is not a cocktail party debate. We are fighting for our lives, and our best defender so far has been the former senator who like his fellow Missourian Harry Truman has no charisma, but boasts a stout heart of courage impervious to other people's opinions.
Attorney General John Ashcroft is the Unsung Person of the Year, and we owe him both respect and gratitude.

Martin Gross is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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