Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft speaks about 9/11 at Evangel University

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft speaks at Evangel University
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft speaks at Evangel University(Michael Van Schoik)
Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 9:24 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft led a discussion and night of reflection at Evangel University on Monday night.

As part of a 20th anniversary commemoration, Ashcroft spoke and answered questions from a panel and crowd about his experience as the U.S. Attorney General during the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The former U.S. Attorney General talked about a range of topics, including the aftermath of 9/11, the end of the Afghan War and the U.S. Patriot Act.

Ashcroft said he believes the United States did not pay enough attention to the potential of overseas threats against the United States. He said it was clear something had to change after September 11th.

“The Patriot Act itself was not in existence then,” Ashcroft said. “And I guess I would refer us all to think in Einstein’s words, who said that, if you keep doing the same thing over and over again and are expecting a different result, it’s insane. If you want to change the outcome of what you’re getting, you have to change what you’re doing.”

Ashcroft says the Patriot Act attempted to intercept future threats.

“You know the president looked in my direction, I believe it was the anniversary of this day, the day after 9/11 or two days after, and said, ‘don’t ever let this happen again,’ ” Ashcroft described. “I took that personally. You know, then our whole effort went from prosecution to prevention.”

Ashcroft said part of the Patriot Act was to make sure law enforcement and prosecutorial community could work together to help inform U.S. strategy against terrorism.

“So we had to go through the law and find out where we had holes in our ability to surveil terrorists and individuals who were threats,” he said. “So by Saturday, after the Tuesday assaults on the country on the 11th, we had assembled a whole series of authorities that were available in our criminal law setting and in the civil law standing, but had never been authorized for use in foreign surveillance. So the Patriot Act was a way of sweeping up assets that we already had an existence that can be devoted.”

While the former U.S. Attorney General said many American may feel safer to this day, he said the United States has to constantly be aware of potential threats.

When asked about the War in Afghanistan coming to a recent end after 20 years, Ashcroft said he had a few concerns.

“We need all kinds of assets around the world,” he said. “There may be places where we won’t be able to be on the ground. That’s a big tragedy about the withdrawal from Afghanistan is we won’t have assets in place that can detect, surveil and warrant.”

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