People love to demonize John Ashcroft. I've never fallen into that camp as it has always seemed unfair and more than a little based in a dislike of his overt religiosity - not in all cases, but I think in noticeable portion. Orin Kerr at Volokh offers this nice comparison of French anti-terrorism legislation and practice versus American, including several selections from the New York Times. Kerr states, and not unfairly:
Public debates about the war on terrorism are filled with lots of delicious ironies. The fact that the French government has many powers that are orders of magnitude greater than anything in the Patriot Act surely ranks up as one of the better ones.
In particular, much less respect for American style habeas corpus proceedings and many fewer checks (because of judicial and prosecutorial cooperation) on prosecutorial powers and discretion. A comparative look at civil liberties would be a welcome corrective to a Chicken Little approach to public discourse.
Stuart Buck offers his comments.