John Ashcroft and the War on Terror:
The Washington Post has a fascinating Page One article on John Ashcroft's role in the War on Terror, and in particular Ashcroft's quiet role opposing hardliners in the Bush Administration. Some of the article reframes old news, but a good chunk of it seems new. Very much worth reading.

  I've long thought that Ashcroft was a misunderstood figure. One interesting example is the drubbing Ashcroft received for the following statement from December 2001, responding to critics of the Patriot Act:
[T]o those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve[.]
  The media was completely clueless about what Ashcroft meant by this, and most people simply assumed that he meant that making civil libertarian objections to Bush Administration practices helped terrorists. I always thought Ashcroft meant something dramatically different. When Ashcroft made those remarks, in December 2001, he knew something that most people didn't: many criticisms of the Patriot Act had been surprisingly dishonest. It was embarrassingly common for critics of the legislation to make bogus claims about what the Patriot Act did. (Why that happened is a really interesting question; I haven't seen anything like it before or since.)

  Ashcroft must have been deeply annoyed by this, because it was creating a false impression both within the U.S. and abroad that the government had responded to 9/11 by imposing a police state. So Ashcroft criticized those who were trying to scare people with bogus claims of lost rights -- that is, illusions of lost liberty, or, to coin a phrase, "phantoms of lost liberty." But the press and the public didn't understand what Ashcroft meant, so his language was completely misunderstood.

  It goes without saying that Ashcroft was no card-carrying member of the ACLU. But I think his role was more complicated than many have assumed, and I'm glad to see that a more nuanced and accurate picture is surfacing.