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Buchanan's most famous case as attorney general was "operation pipe dreams," in which some 2,000 law enforcement officers spent $12 million in taxpayer dollars collaborating to arrest 55 people for selling glass-blown bongs over the internet. The trophy in those arrests was actor/comedian Tommy Chong. Despite having no criminal record, Buchanan went after Chong with zeal, because, she said, he had glamorized the use of marijuana in his movies. Chong received the harshest sentence of any of those arrested.
Buchanan was also the first U.S. attorney to take up Attorney General Gonzalez's challenge to go after pornographers. She filed precedent-setting charges against the porn producer Extreme Associates, a company that isn't even located in her district. It was the first time the federal government has brought an obscenity case in more than a decade. Her case was later thrown out in federal court.
Perhaps Buchanan's most troubling crusade was her pursuit of Dr. Bernard Rottschaefer, a Pittsburgh-area pain specialist who she says was writing prescriptions for OxyContin and other drugs in exchange for sex. Since Dr. Rottschaefer's conviction, Buchanan's case has fallen to pieces. Her star witness admitted in letters to her boyfriend that she made up the lurid sex-for-drugs stories in exchange for leniency from Buchanan's office on her own drug charges.
The discovery proceedings in a related civil trial have also since revealed significant problems with the testimony of Buchanan's other four witnesses. Buchanan never relented from her prosecution, and never pursued perjury charges against her star witness.
All of this seems like a lot of taxpayer money wasted on morality-driven cases that do little to make us safer. This warped sense of priorities grows all the more poignant when you consider that Buchanan took office six days before the attacks of Sept., 11, 2001, and that United flight 93 actually crashed to the ground in her district. One would think that might motivate a law enforcement official to devote all of her time and resources to protecting the country from future terrorist attacks. Instead, Buchanan has gone after bong sellers, pornographers, Dr. Rottschaefer, and, if you need another example, a couple of retired veterans who exaggerated their military experience.
With that kind of record, you might guess that Mary Beth Buchanan was among those U.S. attorneys let go last week. You'd be wrong. In fact, late last year, she was promoted. She now heads up the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women.
The most troubling thing about the Justice Department's recent dismissal of several U.S. attorneys, then, isn't that Attorney General Gonzalez expects his subordinates to share his priorities. What's most disturbing is what those priorities actually are.
Radley Balko is a senior editor for reason. This article originally appeared at FoxNews.com.