Former U.S Attorney General John Ashcroft spoke about the difficulty of attaining a balance between liberty and security on Tuesday at the College Republican’s annual fall speaker event.
The burden he felt when he oversaw the Justice Department in the period immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, for example, was challenging. That balance between liberty and security, he said, would become a topic of intense discussion — both within the media and the government.
He recalled when former President George W. Bush told him “don’t let this happen again” after the attacks, leading him to focus the department on obtaining information to prevent any in the future.
However, Ashcroft said he believes one of the problems with the debate at the time was that the two concepts were treated separately when they, in reality, work in tandem with one another. He said while he believes liberty is the core value of humanity, security is essential to preserving liberty.
“The real purpose for security is to secure liberty,” Ashcroft said. “Not to counterweight it, not to be against it, but to give it real meaning.”
College Republicans president Marco Laudati introduced Ashcroft and spoke briefly about his accomplishments, including his work as Governor of Missouri for 8 years U.S. Senator toward the late 1990s, as well as his term as Attorney General from 2001 to 2005.
“Nice of you in your kind introduction not to mention all of the elections I’ve lost,” Ashcroft said, laughing. “This is what politics is: you have your ups and downs, and a lot of different things happen. But it’s a great opportunity to shape and mold and otherwise reinforce the values you think are important to the culture. And that’s the reason I’m grateful for the opportunity to be involved.”
Ashcroft said recent discussions regarding whether the Justice Department has been abusing its power by infringing on the rights of Americans is worthwhile. He also said, however, he believed surveillance and intelligence gathering is in many ways important to preserving the liberty of U.S. citizens, by preventing disasters from occurring and ensuring we continue to live in a free democracy.
Laudati said College Republicans chose to bring Ashcroft to campus this year as a part of their goal of bringing more speakers that held positions in the natural federal government. The speech was interesting, he felt, especially because of Ashcroft’s discussion about his tenure as Attorney General.
Dominic Bayer, College Republicans secretary of events and a former Daily columnist, added he was excited for Ashcroft to speak at the event, due to his strong career. Ashcroft illustrated how the Department of Justice should function, the Weinberg junior said, and he himself agreeing with what Ashcroft was saying.
“The DOJ is there to enforce the laws that we have on the books, in order to preserve the freedoms of Americans,” he said. “I think that’s that’s something that’s very important to remember, especially when certain people on the fringes of both parties want to politicize the Department of Justice to push an agenda.”
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