WASHINGTON Robert F. Kennedy's daughter criticized the Bush administration for giving broad new powers to police and prosecutors to fight terrorism, saying her father would not have approved of such moves because they undermine civil liberties.
Kerry Kennedy Cuomo made the comments hours before President Bush was to name the Justice Department headquarters for her late father, who was attorney general from 1961-64.
"My daughter, Cara, is here today," Cuomo said at a ceremony honoring Darci Frigo, a Brazilian lawyer and land reform advocate who won this year's Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. "Cara, if anyone tries to tell you this is the type of justice your grandpa would embrace, don't you believe it."
Civil libertarians have harshly criticized some of the efforts by the Bush administration to prosecute terrorists. Among them: keeping secret the identities and status of those detained in the Sept. 11 investigation; new rules allowing the monitoring of communications between some detainees and their lawyers; and Bush's decision to try by military tribunals foreigners charged with acts of terror, a move even supporters acknowledge would mean fewer rights for the accused.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has defended the administration's arrest and detention tactics and invoked memories of Kennedy's war on organized crime to justify them.
Cuomo said her father "was determined to use the law to bring criminals who threatened our country to justice. But that eagerness was always tempered by his commitment to protecting civil liberties even when it meant letting the accused ... go free."
Critics have said Kennedy was willing to restrict civil liberties if it served his purpose. For instance, he believed in wiretapping and authorized FBI wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr., whom FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover thought was a communist.
Cuomo is an author and founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights. She is married to former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who is seeking his party's nomination for New York governor.
Kennedy was named attorney general by his brother, President Kennedy. He was elected to the Senate from New York and was assassinated in Los Angeles while running for president in 1968.
On the Net:
RFK Center: www.rfkmemorial.org
© 2001 The Associated Press