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Administration: No More ‘Loyal Bushies’ At Justice
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Administration: No More ‘Loyal Bushies’ At Justice

Having taken control of the Department of Justice in 2005, Gonzales leaves the Department's credibility in tatters and with staff morale considered "worse...than during Watergate."

SEPTEMBER 12, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, and Ali Frick
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ADMINISTRATION

No More ‘Loyal Bushies’ At Justice

Next Monday, Alberto Gonzales, who announced his resignation in August, will officially step down as the Attorney General of the United States. Having taken control of the Department of Justice in 2005, Gonzales leaves the Department’s credibility in tatters and with staff morale considered “worse…than during Watergate.” With both political hiring and political firing such common practices in the Bush Justice Department, the independence of the unit has been undermined to such an extent that defense attorneys are now able to gain traction with accusations of politically motivated prosecutions that previously would have been dismissed. The next Attorney General, whomever he or she may be, needs “a proven track record of independence to ensure that he or she will act as an independent check on this administration‘s expansive claims of virtually unlimited executive power,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) recently. Unlike Gonzales, the next Attorney General should also have the integrity to “just say no” when the administration disregards the Constitution and the rule of  law, whether it be seeking to legalize torture or illegally wiretapping American citizens. Tell your senator we need an Attorney General who can say “no” to President Bush. Take action HERE.

A POLITICIZED DEPARTMENT: The consideration of political affiliation in the hiring of career employees is forbidden by both federal law and internal Justice Department rules. Since May, Glenn Fine, the Inspector General of the Justice Department, has been investigating “allegations regarding improper political or other considerations in hiring decisions within the Department of Justice.” He has much to investigate. In the past four months, at least two now-former Justice Department officials have admitted to “crossing the line” while screening potential employees at the Department. In May, Monica Goodling, the former Justice Department Liaison to the White House, conceded during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that she had “taken inappropriate political considerations into account” while hiring and that it was “illegal” to do so. Goodling also admitted that she “considered party affiliation in screening applicants to become immigration judges.” In written answers to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, former Justice Department official Bradley Schlozman also admitted that he had once urged hiring certain prosecutors for his office based on their political affiliation.

THE NEED FOR INDEPENDENCE: With the administration embroiled in scandal after scandal where officials appear to have broken the law, the next Attorney General must be someone who can credibly investigate the administration’s current, future, and past transgressions. The Justice Department, however has actually signed of on many of the Bush administration’s most significant tramplings of the rule of law. In his new book, The Terror Presidency, former Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) chief Jack Goldsmith reveals that affirmative opinions by the OLC are treated as “the equivalent of ‘an advance pardon‘ for actions taken at the fuzzy edges of criminal laws.” Internal Justice Department opinions have helped justify interrogation policies that violate international norms, rationalized the removal of warrant safeguards on domestic eavesdropping, and the removal of habeas corpus rights from detainees in American custody. With Congress finally willing to act on its oversight duties, the next Attorney General must be willing and able to act independently of the administration if the facts warrant it.

WHO WILL IT BE? The administration “is closing in on a nominee to replace” Gonzales, with the list of potential successors whittled down to a slim five. Though Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was initially touted as the top nominee, former Solicitor General Ted Olson is now seen as the frontrunner. Other finalists include former U.S. district chief judge Michael Mukasey of New York; Laurence H. Silberman, a senior circuit judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; George J. Terwilliger, a former deputy attorney general under President George H.W. Bush; and Larry D. Thompson, a former deputy attorney general in this administration. Fox News has reported that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) “also is being strongly considered.” Reportedly, Thompson and Silberman have “rebuffed” the administration’s feelers on the position. If Olson is the nominee, a bruising confirmation battle can likely be expected. “Clearly if you made a list of consensus nominees, Olson wouldn’t appear on that list,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told the New York Times.

UNDER THE RADAR

HUMAN RIGHTS — ADVOCACY GROUPS BLAST BUSH’S TORTURE-APPROVING CIA NOMINEE: In a letter to the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday, human rights and advocacy groups, including the Center for American Progress Action Fund, urged the Senate to reject President Bush’s nominee for General Counsel of the CIA, John Rizzo, objecting to Rizzo’s record of sanctioning the use of torture in the interrogation of detainees. In 2002, Rizzo approved a memo written by then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee that argued physical pain must be “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” in order to be considered torture. During Rizzo’s confirmation hearing in June, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked if he “should have objected at the time” to the Bybee definition. “I honestly — I can’t say I should have objected at the time,” replied Rizzo. Subsequently, Wyden has put a hold on Rizzo’s nomination “until the detention and interrogation program is on firm footing, both in terms of effectiveness and legality.” Confirming Rizzo would “send an extraordinarily negative message” to the world about America’s attitude toward the use of torture.

ADMINISTRATION — IMMIGRATION CHIEF JULIE MYERS’ CONFIRMATION HEARING TO BE HELD TODAY: Julie Myers, who was placed in charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) branch of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by recess appointment in Jan. 2006, will appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee today for her confirmation hearing. Myers’s initial confirmation was held up when a bipartisan group of Senate leaders expressed doubts about her ability to head the second-largest investigative agency in the federal government. Under her direction, ICE has faced charges that “U.S. authorities have mistreated illegal immigrants in prisons and jails nationwide, and suffered reports of low job satisfaction among her subordinates.” Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) told Myers that he wanted to hear Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who endorsed her appointment, explain “why he thinks you’re qualified for the job, because based on the resume, I don’t think you are.” Prior to directing ICE, which has 15,000 employees, Myers’s largest management job was overseeing 170 employees as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement. Myers also had charges of nepotism and cronyism leveled at her. She is the niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers and is married to John Wood, Chertoff’s chief of staff.

MEDIA — STUDY INDICATES ‘CONSERVATIVE COLUMNISTS GET MORE SPACE’ IN NEWSPAPERS: A new study by Media Matters found that “in paper after paper, state after state, and region after region, conservative syndicated columnists get more space than their progressive counterparts.” Sixty percent of daily newspapers print more conservative than progressive syndicated columnists every week; only 20 percent of the nation’s daily newspapers maintain a balance between the two. In a given week, conservative columnists reach a circulation of 152 million, versus progressives’ 125 million. “In three out of four broad regions of the country — the West, the South, and the Midwest — conservative syndicated columnists reach more readers than progressive syndicated columnists.” This study serves as a conclusive counter to the claims of conservatives voices like Bill O’Reilly, who asserted that “there’s no question the media in America is heavily liberal — every study shows that,” and Michelle Malkin, who wrote off the “liberal media” when some newscasters refused to wear Iraq ribbons on their lapels.

THINK FAST

“Six years after the 9/11 terror attacks on the U.S., it seems the media still have some educational work to do. A new CBS/New York Times poll reveals that even today, 1 in 3 Americans believe that ‘Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.'”

The Bush administration’s top intelligence officials have notified a federal appeals court that “a July ruling requiring the government to disclose virtually all its information on Guantanamo detainees could cause ‘exceptionally grave damage to the national security.'” The ruling was a victory for detainee lawyers, piercing the government’s shield of secrecy.

57: Percentage New Orleans’s black population dropped after Hurricane Katrina, while the city’s white population declined by 36 percent, according to a new analysis of U.S. census data.

An economic forecast by UCLA predicts “the nation’s economy will be so sluggish well into next year that any major hiccup could tip it into recession. … The forecast presents a gloomier outlook for jobs and the housing market.”

A U.S. military official reported that Israel conducted an airstrike “deep into Syria” yesterday. Military officials said Israel is “keeping troops along the Syrian border on high alert. The officials said there have been no signs that Syria is preparing for war after the alleged incident,” though Syria did complain to the U.N. about Israeli “aggression and violation of sovereignty.”

ABC’s Brian Ross reports that wealthy Saudi Arabians are “filling al Qaeda’s coffers.” “If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia,” said Stuart Levey, the under secretary of the Treasury in charge of tracking terror financing.

According to a poll of Pakistanis, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is more popular in Pakistan than President Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally.” According to poll results, “bin Laden has a 46 percent approval rating. Musharraf’s support is 38 percent. U.S. President George W. Bush’s approval: 9 percent.”

And finally: Happy Day of Conception! Gov. Sergei Morozov, head of the central Russian region Ulyanovsk, has given couples the day off to procreate. “Couples who give birth nine months later on Russia’s national day – June 12 – receive money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.”

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GOOD NEWS

Yesterday, a Senate panel approved a 3.5 percent pay raise for Defense Department military and civilian workers, higher than the three percent pay raise requested by President Bush.

STATE WATCH

HAWAII: The return of 7,000 soldiers from to Iraq to Hawaii will be a welcome “surge” for local business.

CALIFORNIA: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) vetoes legislation asking California voters in a ballot measure if they want to withdraw troops from Iraq.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: At current rates, D.C. may lose its longtime majority-African-American status within 10 years.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Think Progress launches new blog fellows program: get paid to blog.

THINK PROGRESS: Is Gen. David Petraeus’s drawdown part of the White House’s 2008 political strategy?

BODY POLITIK: Path To 9/11 writer uses anniversary of attacks to promote his failed film.

TV NEWSER: For the first time, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann beat Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly in the ratings with the 25-54 demographic.

DAILY GRILL

“It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing.”
— President Bush, 5/2/07, vetoing a bill to set a withdrawal timeline from Iraq

VERSUS

In a “nationwide, prime-time television address tomorrow,” President Bush “will endorse the broad outlines of a plan to bring home 30,000 troops from Iraq by the middle of next year if conditions are favorable.”
— The Boston Globe, 9/12/07