Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Destruction of the DOJ

Emily Bazelon of Slate, talking about the "hijacking" of the Department of Justice by the political wing of the Bush White House:

In August 2005, the Boston Globe reported that after a grand jury in Guam opened an investigation of former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff in 2002, President Bush "removed the supervising federal prosecutor, and the probe ended soon after." The timing is pretty striking. On Nov. 18, 2002, a grand jury subpoenaed secret and suspect-seeming contractual transactions involving Abramoff. The next day, the White House announced the replacement of Frederick A. Black, the acting U.S. attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands since 1991 and lead prosecutor in the case.
She gives more detail on the tobacco case we already discussed earlier on this blog, then this:
There's more: Questionable calls to approve legislative redistricting plans in Mississippi and Texas (remember the one that Tom DeLay engineered?) and a voter-identification statute in Georgia. The details are in this report released today by the Citizens' Commission on Civil Rights. Many articles about troubling DoJ practices have also appeared over the last two years, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. These stories came and went without causing any hullabaloo because—well, why exactly? Because the administration had control of Congress, because the details seemed dry, but most of all because there wasn't a political scandal lapping at the shoes of top White House officials whose names everyone knows.
At every turn over the last several years, the Bush administration has appeared willing to sacrifice impartial enforcement of the rule of law for short-term political gain (and short-term it is indeed, if the Pew study mentioned below is accurate.) Scandal has errupted over the firing of the U.S. attorneys, but that's only the latest body-blow to the rule of law. There are no words to describe how reprehensible it is that the Bush administration puts the interest of the American citizens that the DOJ is supposed to be enforcing the law on behalf of, behind it's own political convenience and opportunity. The attorney purge dominates the headlines right now, and will continue to do so for some time, but do you really think that's all that the Democratic Congress is going to pursue? Would you or I ignore these stories of corruption and political aggrandizement, if we had the power to force Bush administration officials to testify in public about it? I wouldn't. And add to it the stories of illegal use of national security letters by the FBI, illegal wiretapping, the "legalization" of the use of torture. You can look forward to a refreshing does of sunlight to expose the unpleasant circumstances once hidden away by claims of privilege and secrecy.

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