Former attorney general John Ashcroft talks national security at KPU event
Liberty is a core American value, Ashcroft says
The Kennedy Political Union, College Republicans and Graduate Leadership College hosted former Attorney General John Ashcroft on April 9th to speak about national security and liberty, among other issues.
Ashcroft served as attorney general under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005. He has also served as governor of and senator for Missouri and now serves as the founder and chairman of the Ashcroft Law Firm.
During his speech, Ashcroft touched on the debate about recent alleged abuses within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) system, which oversees requests for surveillance warrants of foreign spies. In March, the Justice Department announced that its inspector general had opened an investigation into alleged abuses of the system by law enforcement.
During his speech, Ashcroft gave suggestions on how to limit these FISA abuses in the future.
“It would be a tragedy indeed if America were to lose its faith and trust in the government's responsibility to protect the liberties of Americans, because they felt that which had been designed to protect them was being used as a weapon against them,” Ashcroft said.
The Eagle also sat down with Ashcroft prior to his appearance to ask him about his political beliefs and values. As a culture, Ashcroft wants America to be liberty-oriented. He sees liberty as the core value of America and it should be used to pursue happiness in a responsible framework, he said.
“When the founding fathers said, ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by the creator with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,’ that’s really a trio of values expressing the centrality of liberty,” Ashcroft said. “It’s at the core of that sequence.”
However, Ashcroft believes this culture is threatened when Americans don’t ask that the government defends their liberty but instead that it provides them benefits. When a government provides benefits it threatens long term interests in favor of short term benefits but when a government safeguards liberty it leaves resources available for opportunity, said Ashcroft.
“In a way we need to give citizens a ladder on which to climb, rather than a mattress on which to rest,” Ashcroft said.
Additionally, Ashcroft said that he believes security enhances liberty, and with the right kind of security, the U.S. can be a more free place.
“Some people think that there is a trade off between liberty and security,” he said. “I think the object of security is liberty. So that liberty is not something that competes with security, it’s something that benefits as a result of security.”