Although controversial due to the fact it was paid for by tax payers, Attorney General John Ashcroft used to travel by private jet during his tenure as Attorney General. This began in the beginning of 2001, before the attacks on 9/11.
Conspiracy theorists have long pointed to this fact as further proof that the government had prior knowledge that something bad was about to happen. Prior attorney generals used to travel primarily by commercial airlines, and extra security was simply added to their flights to ensure their safety. But early in 2001, that changed, and Ashcroft traveled by private, chartered jet. The FBI cited a “threat assessment” for the reason of requesting Attorney General Ashcroft travel in this manner, but never released that actual assessment. It was often cited by media sources.
One such mention, was made in July of 2001, by CBS News:
Fishing rod in hand, Attorney General John Ashcroft left on a weekend trip to Missouri Thursday afternoon aboard a chartered government jet, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart.
In response to inquiries from CBS News over why Ashcroft was traveling exclusively by leased jet aircraft instead of commercial airlines, the Justice Department cited what it called a “threat assessment” by the FBI, and said Ashcroft has been advised to travel only by private jet for the remainder of his term.
“There was a threat assessment and there are guidelines. He is acting under the guidelines,” an FBI spokesman said. Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department, however, would identify what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it.
A senior official at the CIA said he was unaware of specific threats against any Cabinet member, and Ashcroft himself, in a speech in California, seemed unsure of the nature of the threat.
In July of 2016, I requested a copy of this “threat assessment” from the FBI. In June of 2017, it was declassified at released. As far as I can tell, I do not believe this document has ever been released before.
The document’s introduction states:
There is a societal need to preserve the safety and security of the United States Attorney General and his family. In his official position as the head of the Department of Justice and chief law enforcement officer of the federal government, he represents the United States in legal matters generally and gives advice and opinions to the President and to heads of executive departments of government. The Attorney General, through the Department of Justice, plays a pivotal role in ensuring healthy competition of our free-enterprise system, safeguarding the consumer, and in enforcing drug, immigration, and naturalization laws. The Department also has a vital role in protecting citizens against criminals and subversion through effective law enforcement, crime prevention, detection, prosecution, and rehabilitation of offenders.
The Department conducts all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States is a concern. The Attorney General directs these activities, as well as those of the U.S. Attorneys throughout the United States. As a result, due to the vast responsibilities of the Attorney General, the Attorney General will continue to be in the forefront of many disagreements and controversies. Consequently, the Attorney General will continue to be a target of choice for protest and retaliation by individuals, terrorist fanatics, drug cartels, and organized criminal enterprises seeking revenge or notoriety.