Ashcroft's Partisan Testimony

From an esteemed colleague and former D.O.J. official (under Clinton/Reno), who gave us permission to post this on TalkLeft:

John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft took office as Attorney General claiming that he wanted to "depoliticize" the Department of Justice. His testimony before the 9/11 Commission this week is only the latest indication that he has, in fact, politicized it to an extent not seen since the days of Richard Nixon. Louis Freeh, Janet Reno, Thomas Pickard and Cofer Black all testified in a measured and serious fashion, identifying what they thought the problems were and talking about potential solutions. It was actually surprising how little cross-firing went on, particularly when one considers the history between, for example, Freeh and Reno.

Ashcroft's testimony was entirely different - completely partisan and combative. He was clearly not interested in truly identifying problems, but simply in attacking others (presumably in part to deflect attention from his own failings. Moreover, his testimony was misleading at best. While he conveniently declassified one memo so that he could use it to attack Commissioner Gorelick, he neglected to mention that his own Deputy Attorney General had expressly reaffirmed those same procedures after Ashcroft took office. The fact is that those procedures (a) were reasonably believed to be required by law and (b) actually required the FBI to provide information to criminal investigators whenever they was a reasonable indication of criminal activity.

This partisanship is part of a consistent pattern with Ashcroft. He has politicized hiring in the Department of Justice Honors program, repeatedly rejecting the recommendations of career lawyers to ensure that Federalist Society types are hired. He has made decisions on matters such as the Second Amendment without consulting the lawyers who have litigated these issues for years, and in a manner that is adverse to the interests of the Department. And his statement in October 2001 that those who opposed the Administration were giving aid and comfort to the enemy was truly scary coming from an Attorney General.

Let's hope that Ashcroft does not have the opportunity to serve beyond this fall; but let's also hope that if Bush is re-elected he has the good sense to bounce this dangerous zealot.


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