Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Justice building named for RFK

November 21, 2001


— President Bush named the Justice Department headquarters after former Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy in a ceremony Tuesday attended by a phalanx of Kennedys, including a daughter of RFK who earlier in the day sharply criticized the Bush administration.

Kerry Kennedy Cuomo said her father would not have approved of the administration's efforts to give broad new powers for police and prosecutors to fight terrorism because they undermine civil liberties.

"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."

Critics have said Kennedy was willing to restrict civil liberties in certain instances. For example, he authorized FBI wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr., who FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover thought was a communist.

Bush did not mention Cuomo's comments at the dedication ceremony for Kennedy, who would have turned 76 on Tuesday. The president praised RFK's war on organized crime and support for civil rights.

"From this day, his birthday, everyone who enters this building or passes by will think of Robert F. Kennedy and what he still means to this country," said Bush, who was joined on stage by Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft and former Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy, one of RFK's 11 children.

Civil libertarians have 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.

Kennedy was named attorney general by his brother, President John F. Kennedy, and served from 1961-64. He later was elected to the Senate from New York and was assassinated in Los Angeles while running for president in 1968.

Cuomo attended the dedication with her mother, Ethel Kennedy; uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; and other siblings and relatives. Cuomo did not speak.

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.

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