Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has emerged as the highest-ranking former Bush administration official to lobby for and invest in companies in the homeland security field, the Washington Post reports. Ashcroft is building a lucrative consulting company helping security and other firms find business with federal agencies. Federal spending on homeland security is expected to reach nearly $60 billion in fiscal 2007. “It’s a continuation of the aspiration I have that our nation have access to the best possible resources to fight terror, whether domestic or international,” Ashcroft told the Post.
Ashcroft said he wants the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to be aided by the tech world’s “best of breed.” His firm has 30 clients, many of which make products or technology aimed at homeland security, and about a third of which the firm has not disclosed, to protect client confidentiality. The firm also has equity stakes in eight client companies. Privacy experts and civil libertarians, who fought Ashcroft’s policies to enlarge surveillance powers, warned that the types of businesses promoted by Ashcroft and other lobbyists are becoming a de facto branch of the government, beyond traditional oversight. They question whether the security offered by these firms is balanced by adequate protection for civil liberties.