9 Mar 2007
Ashcroft discusses security and freedom
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told the Corps of Cadets that one of the biggest challenges facing our nation is finding the balance between security and liberty. In his Greater Issues address, Ashcroft talked about the impact of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Those attacks fundamentally changed the way the Justice Department operates and how Americans think about national security, he said. “The Justice Department was an organization that looked back, prosecuting criminals for past deeds.” Immediately the department changed its focus, looking to the future and gathering information to prevent attacks rather than looking backwards and gathering information to prosecute past offenses.
Ashcroft said the attacks also shattered our assumption that threats to national security come from other nation states. The terrorist attacks made it clear that “individuals or institutions of limited size can threaten our existence.”
The former attorney general said that there should be robust debate about the competing needs for information and privacy. “To disrupt those things that would destroy us, we need information,” he said. The balance between gathering information and protecting privacy are “two currents in American culture that are on a collision course.”
“You will have to be the ones to reconcile these competing needs,” he told the cadets.
At the conclusion of his address, Ashcroft received the honorary degree of Doctor of Public Administration from The Citadel Board of Visitors.
His address was co-sponsored by the Free Enterprise Foundation which is affiliated with The Citadel School of Business. The Greater Issues series is made possible by a grant from the Mills B. Lane Memorial Foundation.