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Monday, March 31, 2008

New York Times vs. the Justice Department

The New York Times editorial board seems to have had enough with the Justice Department. Just two weeks after declaring President Bush’s nomination of Grace Chung Becker to head up the Civil Rights Division “ill-conceived,” the Times observes that the “cynical politicization of the Justice Department” is as strong as ever under the leadership of Michael Mukasey.

In an editorial in the Sunday edition, the Times takes issue with Attorney General Mukasey’s decision to disband the United States Attorney’s Office on Public Corruption in Los Angeles. Understandably skeptical of US Attorney Thomas O’Brien’s insistence that the “revamping of his office will allow [the] pursuit of more corruption cases,” the piece suggests that the decision to close the office may have had more to do with the “number of sensitive inquiries under way at the high-profile office, including an investigation of Representative Jerry Lewis, the powerful California Republican.”

And in another piece published today, members of the editorial board attack President Bush’s refusal to budge on the controversial nomination of Steven Bradbury to head up the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Senate Democrats are understandably concerned about the possibility that Bradbury, who authored several now infamous “torture memos” for the White House, could be the man charged with the responsibility of determining whether the president and his colleagues are acting legally.

The Justice Department has been ripped apart by the political calculations and hyper-partisanship of the Bush administration. The American public trusted that with the appointment of Michael Mukasey as attorney general, the excesses of Alberto Gonzales’ tenure would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, as the New York Times explains, “the political specter at Justice” is still haunting the halls of that hallowed department.

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