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Ashcroft’s Administration Accused of Exerting Political Influence on Crime Data Agencies

Sources in the Department of Justice say that Attorney General John Ashcroft’s heavy-handed control over Department activities has spread to the previously independent Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice, the statistical and research arms of the USDOJ. Criminal justice experts are concerned that as Ashcroft exerts more and more political control over these previously independent agencies, the integrity of the crime data will be lost. These agencies have long been independent of oversight from the Attorney General and were previously allowed to release reports at will and administer research grants without clearance. Employees working within these agencies say that Ashcroft’s political appointees have used the U.S.A. Patriot Act to remove the authority of the independent agencies, often holding up the release of reports for many months under the guise of waiting for approval. Alfred Blumstein, who helped found the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1968, said that the Administration’s recent actions are the most “intrusive effort by political appointees in the Justice Department to control the shaping and dissemination of statistics” that he’s seen since his involvement with the agency. Blumstein said that he was particularly concerned over a statement by one of Ashcroft’s political appointees which said that centralizing control over both the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice would ensure that the Department “speaks with one voice.” Blumstein fears that the goal of having “one voice” will potentially hinder the release of data that may not be seen as favorable to, or in line with, Justice Department policy.

Sources:

New York Times, 09/22/02

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