John Ashcroft's liberals

Posted: Aug 15, 2002 12:00 AM
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 phone. 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 administration. 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.