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Tuesday, September 16, 2014
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Published: Friday, 8/15/2008

Justice taken lightly

EVEN as Attorney General Michael Mukasey tries to assure Americans that it won't happen again, he said he has no intention of prosecuting former officials at the Justice Department who may have violated the law by politicizing the hiring for certain career jobs.

That's another example of Bush Administration impunity and lack of accountability through its disregard of laws by which the American government operates.

A recent report by the Justice Department's inspector general and its internal ethics office revealed that political factors were used in hiring prosecutors, immigration judges, and other career officials.

Instead of being chosen solely on the basis of experience, credentials, and legal competence, jobs applicants were asked whom they had voted for, what their position was on issues such as abortion, and what their track record was in terms of party loyalty. All but one of the seven officials who had done such hiring have left the department, according to the New York Times.

An administration may make certain appointments based on political affiliation, but civil service laws and Justice Department policy say career posts must be filled on merit, not party allegiance. In a separate matter involving politics in personnel, the firings of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006 and the hiring practices in Justice's civil rights division are still under investigation.

Mr. Mukasey's decision not to prosecute those who broke the rules puts him in the unsavory line of the two preceding attorneys general: Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft. He joins them in generally undistinguished performance, characterized for the most part by unquestioning, unprofessional adherence to political signals from the White House as opposed to judgment rooted in high legal standards.

One might have expected better of Mr. Mukasey, based on his background as a senior, distinguished judge.

No such luck.



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