WASHINGTON -- How is it that John Ashcroft's hard-line Justice
Department flinches like a gun controller at the thought of arming airline
pilots? That tendency can be traced to a veteran career bureaucrat from
Pennsylvania named Sarah Hart, brought into the Justice Department a year
ago by Attorney General Ashcroft.
Hart not only has attacked guns in the cockpit but also has
expressed affection for the COPS program, Bill Clinton's federal subsidy for
local police forces that the Bush administration wants to terminate. If Hart
shares Clintonian ideals, she has found plenty of company at a Justice
Department where holdover Clinton administration bureaucrats abound.
When Ashcroft entered the attorney general's office after a
brutal Senate confirmation process, a veteran of previous Republican
administrations told me the new attorney general's immediate test would be
how he staffed his department. From conservatives, Ashcroft gets an "A" for
high-level appointments and an "F" for the mid-level bureaucracy. Assailed
by the Left as anti-civil libertarian, he is attacked by the Right for
leaving his department unchanged.
Three of Ashcroft's most criticized senior bureaucrats follow:
Lawrence A. Greenfeld, director of the Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS): Starting as a probation officer in Fairfax County, Va., 33
years ago, he joined the Justice Department in 1976 and the BJS in 1982. He
was its principal deputy director under President Clinton and was promoted
to director by President Bush. He is viewed by conservatives as supporting
COPS and other Clinton programs.
Michael Katz, deputy assistant attorney general in the Antitrust
Division: A University of California at Berkeley professor starting in 1987,
he became chief economist -- and staunch regulator -- at the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) in 1994. He next became chief economist at
Clinton's Antitrust Division, supervising its economic analysis as it
attacked Microsoft. Ashcroft has retained him in that strategic position.
Sarah V. Hart, director of the National Institute of Justice
(NIJ): A Philadelphia prosecutor for 16 years, she became chief counsel of
Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections in 1995. Since joining Ashcroft's
Justice Department, conservatives complain, Hart has done nothing to reduce
NIJ funding for left-wing academic institutions.
Hart particularly distresses conservatives. When Republican Sen.
Jon Kyl of Arizona planned a critical study of COPS, he could not get help
from Justice because Hart indicated support for the program. Kyl's staffers
did not even think it worthwhile to contact Greenfeld, who at BJS had the
numbers at hand but was known as an ardent COPS booster.
When Congress passed its transportation security act last
December, it required Hart's NIJ to report any alternatives in airline
cockpits to stun guns or other non-lethal weapons. According to Justice
sources, she recommended only "passive" behavior by pilots. Since she has
publicly suggested that stun guns may be "impractical," Hart in effect is
calling for pilot passivity in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
A draft report to the Senate by the General Accounting Office
(GAO), the congressional investigative arm, cites Hart as a source for
objection to guns in the cockpit. "Arming pilots," says the GAO draft,
"would introduce 10,000-100,000 guns into society, contradicting other
efforts to discourage the number of firearms in the population." That aligns
a Bush presidential appointee with the gun-controllers. When my office
called her, Hart pleaded she was in the midst of a meeting and hung up the
Hart had the power to stop federal financing for an anti-gun
study by the National Academy of Sciences, which is expected to be issued
just in time for the 2004 presidential election campaign. She did not. John
Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has called
this a one-sided study with a foregone conclusion conceived by the Clinton
Beneath the level of Hart, Katz and Greenfeld, platoons of
liberals infest the Justice Department. I have previously reported that
Stuart Gibson, a lawyer in Justice's Tax Division, is a liberal political
activist elected to office in the Virginia suburbs. His existence became
known only when he was identified as lead litigator publicly revealing a tax
shelter used by William Simon, Republican candidate for governor of
California. How many more liberals pursue their agendas inside John
Ashcroft's Justice Department is anybody's guess.