As we reported on Monday, the Justice Department’s Inspector General, along with the Office for Professional Responsibility, released a report stating that the DOJ had illegally used political considerations in hiring career attorneys. One of the most disturbing revelations found in the report was a section discussing how a senior terrorism official had been passed over for a position because of his wife’s political beliefs. Instead, the department promoted a junior staffer with no terrorism experience whatsoever.
While we found this report alarming, major news outlets seemed unaffected. According to Media Matters, a terrific organization which promotes fair and balanced (Sorry Mr. O’Reilly!) news coverage, “evening news broadcasts on CBS and NBC failed to cover” the report and ABC’s World News “devoted less than 30 seconds” to it.
Truthfully, we’re not sure how to take this. If these news programs did not cover the issue because so much has already been released regarding the rampant politicization at Justice, that is…disheartening to say the least. If they ignored the story because they felt that it wasn’t important, then we have a problem. What could possibly be more serious than the politicization of our justice system?
Just one week after Attorney General Michael Mukasey urged Congress to undermine the Supreme Court’s recent Boumediene decision – displaying once and for all where his true allegiance lies – the Justice Department has released another report outlining (yes, again) just how rampant the politicization has become under the Bush administration. Of course, the report simultaneously chastises DOJ employees and absolves the department of any real responsibility by placing the blame for these partisan policies squarely on the shoulders of former Justice employees.
Last month, a report was released detailing how political considerations tainted the selection process for the Justice Department’s esteemed intern and honor programs. Today, a new joint report released by the Inspector General and the Office of Professional Responsibility acknowledged that these illegal partisan hiring practices extended to immigration judges and prosecutors as well. According to the Washington Post, department officials went so far as to ask prospective career attorneys – who by definition are supposed to operate independently of the president – “What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?”
As disturbing as these revelations are, they are also dishearteningly banal. Accusations of politicization at the DOJ, and throughout the administration, have been widespread for years. Equally unsurprising is how today’s report manages to both excoriate and exonerate department officials at the same time. Two of the officials fingered in the report, Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson, left the department in 2007, and AG Mukasey swears that new policies have already been put in place to ensure that improper political considerations play no part in the hiring of future career attorneys. Of course, the Hatch Act already made such considerations illegal, but we are glad to see that the attorney general has decided to actually enforce it.
Unfortunately, while Goodling and Sampson might be long gone, their legacy lives on — the attorneys they hired based on political considerations still roam the halls of the Justice Department.