- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2002

That paragon of rectitude and competence, former Attorney General Janet Reno, disapproves of the way her successor, John Ashcroft, is doing his job. Speaking to university students in Minnesota Monday, Miss Reno suggested that Mr. Ashcroft had questioned the patriotism of critics of the Bush administration's conduct of the war on terror. "It is important that we bring people to justice according to the principles of our Constitution," Miss Reno declared. "The day we start giving up our freedoms, the bad guys have won." While this editorial page has criticized Mr. Ashcroft's handling of some issues (such as the administration's push for military tribunals), he has done an outstanding job in the wake of September 11 of mobilizing U.S. law enforcement action to prevent more terrorist attacks on Americans.

By contrast, during Miss Reno's eight years as attorney general, the Clinton Justice Department's performance in fighting terrorism was abysmal, even according to some of the officials who were supposed to be running the campaign. "Clearly, not enough was done," Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general, told the Boston Globe shortly after September 11. "We should have caught this. Why this happened, I don't know. Responsibilities were given out. Resources were given. Authorities existed. We should have prevented this." A former senior Justice Department official recently told Insight magazine that Miss Reno undermined U.S. national security by diverting resources away from the department's main task of prosecuting criminals. "Reno focused on politically correct issues such as getting the lead out of paints in tenements, or her … initiative to educate preschool children," the official said. Miss Reno was "constantly going around the country giving speeches on these things and asking the department to focus on them. Under her direction, we spent our resources on sociology experiments, not on prosecution. She had us going hither and yon doing things tangential to our mission. It all came home to roost on September 11."

Miss Reno is associated with some of the most outrageous scandals of the Clinton years, which included the immolation of scores of children when federal agents stormed at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993. Few people will forget the infamous April 2000 photo of a federal agent pointing his gun at a terrified 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez in Miami before the child was spirited off to Fidel Castro's gulag. And Miss Reno did yeoman work in stonewalling calls for special prosecutors in the Clinton-Gore 1996 fund-raising scandals. Her criticism of Mr. Ashcroft is just the latest indication that Miss Reno is a person without a conscience or capacity to feel shame.

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