Notes: In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Attorney General John Ashcroft got a bit radical. Frank Rich wrote in Sunday's New York Times that "It's no longer just politically incorrect to criticize George W. Bush or anyone in his administration these days — now it's treason. John Ashcroft, testifying before the Senate on Thursday, declared that those who challenge his wisdom 'only aid terrorists' and will 'give ammunition to America's enemies.' Tough words." Ashcroft's over-the-top attitude is unnecessary. Practically all of us are backing the Bush administration in the war on terrorism. Still, we value America's laws and freedoms as the basis for the political philosophy of the country.

The order George W. Bush signed on military tribunals was hastily drafted in an overbroad manner. It applies to non-citizens, but a question is to which non-citizens. There is no reason that it can't specify that it applies to al Qaeda or even other terrorist organizations. We're told by the Bush powers that they intend to use the tribunals, if used at all, against al Qaeda terrorists. But, until that is a part of the order, it's not the law.

Other matters are troubling: eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations without a judge's specific approval; the detention of 500 people, many without charges and without publicly disclosing names and reasons for detention; FBI questioning of foreigners not suspected of any wrongdoing. We're supposed to trust Ashcroft and company that they won't go too far, and we're supposed to rely on them to tell us so. The Ashcroft message is "trust us to do what's in your best interests and keep quiet." That's not the American system of checks and balances.

Power always expands to the limits to which it's allowed to expand. American citizens grant power to our government, not the other way around. Ashcroft should remember that he works for us, he doesn't rule us.