by Jim Hightower
Years ago, an ethically challenged Texas legislator who had made quite a bit of money while in office, unabashedly said: "I seen my chances, and I took 'em."
That same enterprising ethic explains the recent good fortunes of John Ashcroft. Known as "Mad Dog" Ashcroft when he was Bush's attorney general, he maniacally pushed for greater surveillance of the American people, demanding fat budgets and high-tech monitoring programs for federal intelligence operatives. This was tailor-made for corporations with computer systems, software programs and other spy goodies to sell to the government.
Out of this came a new "Security-Industrial Complex" that — like the Military Industrial Complex — has become a defacto branch of government, annually extracting billions-of-dollars worth of federal contracts. Having helped to build it, Ashcroft seen his chances, and now he's taking 'em.
Last year, he left the AG's office and moved just six blocks away where he morphed into a fat cat lobbyist. He represents — guess who? — high-tech corporations eager to sell spy goodies to the feds. Naturally, Ashcroft puts an altruistic spin on his new work: "It's a continuation of the aspiration I have that our nation have access to the best possible resources to fight terror."
Yeah…not to mention his aspiration for cash. Corporations are throwing millions of dollars at him to turn his insider knowledge and old-boy contacts into lucrative contracts for them. For example, ChoicePoint Inc., a huge firm that collects and sells your and my private data, is frank about why it hired the former AG, saying that he can connect it with "the right people within the agencies."
Ashcroft helped create a climate of fear and an acceptance of intrusive surveillance in America, and now he's cashing in on it. He's even more ethically challenged than that old Texas legislator.
Jim Hightower is the best-selling author of Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush, on sale from Viking Press. For more information, visit www.jimhightower.com
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