Among feckless Bush administration officials, Attorney General John Ashcroft manages to distinguish himself time and time again. In this instance, Republican and Democratic lawmakers are pressing him to explain why the No. 27 guy on the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists was released and sent home to Syria.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a recent recipient of a Dick Cheney F-bomb, puts it succinctly. He asks, "Why was a suspected terrorist returned to a country that sponsors terrorism?"

The mockery Ashcroft has made of the Justice Department ratchets up another notch or two with this unrelated development:

The Bush administration is offering a novel reason for denying a request seeking the Justice Department's database on foreign lobbyists: Copying the information would bring down the computer system.

"This was a new one on us. We weren't aware there were databases that could be destroyed just by copying them," Bob Williams of the Center for Public Integrity said Tuesday in the AP story.

One suspects Ashcroft was the kind of student who would use the dog-ate-my-homework in his astoundingly feeble attempts to shrug off attention to his incompetence, however handy he may be with his vocal stylings. Lest we forget, Ashcroft is a former incumbent Missouri senator who lost an election to a dead guy.


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