Interviewing John

FOR NEARLY THREE weeks now, I've been trying, unsuccessfully, to have U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft stop by my office to answer a few questions. Really, they're very quick, painless questions. He can even have a lawyer with him—this time.

I don't suspect Mr. Ashcroft of any criminal wrongdoing; indeed, I have no knowledge that he has done anything wrong at all. But based upon his age, gender, ethnicity, and religious beliefs, I believe Mr. Ashcroft could assist me in my efforts to eradicate terrorism.

Here are just a few of the questions I'd like to have Mr. Ashcroft answer:

Residence: I'd like to know where Mr. Ashcroft now lives and every other place he's ever lived in this country. I'd like to know with whom he lives and personal information regarding them, and any information that would assist in locating Mr. Ashcroft in the future.

Telephone Numbers: I'd like all telephone numbers used by Mr. Ashcroft, anyone in his family, and any close associates, including the president. That includes private lines, cell phones, pagers, beepers, and the hot line to the Kremlin.

Travel: I'd like to know what foreign countries Mr. Ashcroft has ever visited, the dates of those visits, and the reasons he went there. I'd also like to know every place he's ever visited in this country—especially big cities and landmarks—the dates, and why he was there. In particular, has he ever visited Missouri, South Carolina, Afghanistan, or Mississippi? If he's planning to leave the country after this interview, I'd like to know where he plans to go, whom he plans to contact, and for what reasons. Just wondering.

Work Life: I'd like to know everything there is to know about Mr. Ashcroft's job, including whom he associates with, the types of work he does, and how long he plans to stay in the position. What sorts of books does he read? Legal documents? Constitutional amendments?

Knowledge of Weapons: I'd like to know whether Mr. Ashcroft believes in the right to keep and bear arms, whether he has a concealed-weapons permit, and whether he or anyone he knows has access to guns or any explosives or harmful chemicals, or has any training in the development or use of such weapons. If anyone in the Department of Justice has training in the handling of firearms or any other such weapons, I'd like to know their names, the types of weapons they have training in and access to, and their relationship to Mr. Ashcroft. I'd also like to know if he knows of anyone, say, over at the Pentagon or from his days in the Senate, who is capable of developing any biological or chemical weapons such as anthrax.

Regarding the Events of Sept. 11, 2001: I'd like to know Mr. Ashcroft's private political views on United States foreign policy and whether he, or anyone he knows, thinks any aspect of it is inappropriate. Does he work with, or have any kind of personal relationship with, any- one who has ever, for any reason, been accused by any person of having committed an act of terrorism? Did he ever fly a plane into the World Trade Center? (I doubt it, but you gotta check these things.)

Reaction to Terrorism: I'd like to know whether Mr. Ashcroft has ever lauded the cause of people who seceded from and declared war upon the United States of America. Has he ever visited Fort Sumter? Has he ever spoken with individuals or organizations sympathetic to the cause of secessionists? Does he believe, due to the tenets of his religion, that certain groups of people, such as homosexuals, do not deserve legal protection from acts of violence directed against them because of who they are? Does he have any association, such as an honorary degree, from institutions that promote such beliefs based upon religious doctrine? Are these institutions tolerant of individuals, organizations, or civilizations with differing beliefs?

Of course, I'm sure Mr. Ashcroft will understand that even though many people have been detained without charges for indefinite periods recently, his cooperation in answering these questions fully and truthfully is entirely voluntary. I have only his best interests and my personal concern about his future at heart. I've already obtained much of this information on my own initiative, through reading his e-mail, listening to his phone conversations, interviewing his neighbors, and rooting through his garbage. But I'd like to see what he says. Just curious.

I'm sure that where Mr. Ashcroft comes from, having a government agent ask these sorts of invasive, personal questions, without any sort of public accountability, is, quite frankly, horrifying. Where he comes from, asking questions like these is associated with the worst kinds of abuses of governmental power. But heck, I'm not even going to keep a file or keep his name on any sort of list. Or anything. I just want to know. Since he has nothing to hide, I'm sure he'll help out.

Where I come from, knowledge is everything. Really.

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