New at Reason

Radley Balko thumbs through the e-mails revealed in the U.S. Attorneys scandal and ponders what they reveal about how government works.

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    The conflict didn't seem to phase the Justice Department.

    I try not to let these sorts of errors faze me, but occasionally the pedant takes over.

  • Lord Acton||

    Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice

  • GILMORE||

    Good piece radley. Insightful analysis of an angle that i havent seen pursued before.

  • LarryA||

    The Justice Department ultimately sided with the law enforcement agencies, noting that its best to hide "unsettling" interrogation techniques from juries, even when it was those techniques that extracted the confession.

    Where "unsettling" means "if anyone else did that to someone we'd send them to prison."

    Where's the part about "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?"

  • ||

    Effin eh Radley. Your stuff keeps getting better and better. You hit the nail right on the head. Never mind government agents terrorizing our own citizens. Using a federal agency for partisan politics? Get a rope!

  • ||

    It's typical of the Beltway mentality--anything goes unless it favors the other party. "I love my people. . .pull!"

    Pendant,

    Take care, or I'll shoot you with my fazor. Set on "disturb", of course. Unlike the DOJ, I have a problem with overzealous fazings.

  • ||

    I'm adding some enhancements to the faze modulator.

  • biologist||

    Excellent article, Radley.

    Pro Lib:

    Pendants are those things that hang. I think you're addressing Pedant. :)

  • ||

    biologist,

    Don't be pedantic :) I'm setting my fazor on "discombobulate" for you. What do you expect from someone reading vendor contracts and typing comments at the same time? Sanity? Correct word choice? At least you didn't tell me that I misspelled "phaser". Then I would've set my pistol to "schadenfreudiate"--its highest setting.

  • ||

    "schadenfreudiate"....thread officially over! Nicely done!

  • ||

    Revenge. . .it's schadenfreudelicious!

  • ||

    I'll admit that the Bush JD's priorities have been scary/stupid, but they've never denied or hidden them. I submit that their priorities really are a matter for the voters to rule on. But using the prosecutors to upend or distort the process by which the voters make their ruling is so obviously out of bounds that even a Republican Congress should be aghast. In fairness, some of the Republican congressmen have spoken out sharply against the AG.

    This isn't politics as usual. Being able to actually investigate in a reasonably impartial way voter fraud and corrupt officials is what separates the US from a banana republic. Retaliation against prosecutors who fail to put party loyalty first is simply beyond the pale.

  • ||

    "It's sad, but not terribly surprising, that it would take accusations of excessive partisanship - that is, unfairly using the office to gain a political advantage over the Democrats - to spur the Democrats in Congress to take any meaningful action. Trample on the rights of U.S. citizens, and the Democrats largely look the other way - can't be seen as soft on crime, or on national security. But trample on the political prospects of Democrats, and the subpoenas fly."

    You don't think that the fact that this scandal broke on the Democrats', while the others were "old news," had anything to do with it receiving more attention from them?

  • ||

    Interesting that on a purportedly libertarian blog, no one has brought up the point that shady practices at DOJ wouldn't be such an issue if there weren't approximately 50,000,000,000 federal laws for them to enforce.

    Really, with the amount of power that the feds have grabbed, why would anyone be surprised that they abuse it? Certainly no partisan distinction there.

  • ||

    ChrisO,

    Well that goes without saying. Why do we have federal crimes, anyway?

  • ||

    Now that a Justice Department official involved in the firings has stated that she is going to take the 5th if called to testify before Congress - her lawyer explaining that truthful answers would expose her to serious legal jeopardy - will Hit & Run still be treating this as merely a political spat?

  • ||

    Well that goes without saying. Why do we have federal crimes, anyway?

    So Congress could appear to be "doing something."

    The first federal prison didn't open until something like the 1870s, and for a long time after that there was only one.

    My point is that such abuses are *inherent* to power. The only way to curb federal prosecutorial abuses and misconduct by DOJ officials is to eliminate most of their power. This is not a Team Red/Team Blue issue.

  • ||

    Couldn't agree more. If the most corrupt people on Earth occupied the Congress and White House but only had the power to blow my nose--with permission and with dire personal consequences if I get a rash--why, I wouldn't worry so much about partisanship and corruption. As it is, that is not the case. Which is why I find quaint the idea that one party or the other is substantially better. There are ways in which each is worse than the other, but the corruption, the abuse, the lack of accountability, and the constant power grabbing are largely the same.

  • ||

    Pro, you and I are on the same page.

    I deplore the politically motivated firing of these U.S. Attorneys, but I can't pretend to be shocked by it. Or by how the federal law enforcement community has become a bunch of "scalp collectors."

    Radley is spot-on in his piece here, but the problem is that the entire issue has devolved around what Alberto Gonzales said or didn't say, and who is going to testify or not testify. Those are non-issues, from my perspective. I really don't care about the little partisan pissing match. DOJ has been evolving into a monster for decades, under both Democrat and Republican presidents, and nobody except a few of us crazy libertarians seems to give a shit.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Now that a Justice Department official involved in the firings has stated that she is going to take the 5th if called to testify before Congress - her lawyer explaining that truthful answers would expose her to serious legal jeopardy - will Hit & Run still be treating this as merely a political spat?

    Not me. I'm ratcheting down my opinion to only 99% political. Maybe 98%. [Shrug] Since Scooter took it up the... well, you know, my guess is that this is going to be the standard ploy now and the lawyer is jockeying for immunity for the official just in case.

  • nicrivera||

    Once again, you've written a great article, Radley.

    It's sad how Congress has been completely silent about the Justice Department going after people who distribute porn over state lines or selling water pipes over the internet, but the minute a political purge is committed, Congress jumps right in. Apparently politicizing the Justice Department is a greater crime than the wholesale trampling of our civil liberties.

  • ||

    "Those are non-issues, from my perspective."

    Reminds me of the non-issues that put the final nail in Capone or Pinochet's coffin, something about tax evasion and embezzlement. Not everyone was asleep while torture got its groove back, FBI snooping was shrugged off, and habeus corpus became a nostalgia piece. Not everyone thought these things were non-issues and got distracted as Gonzalez smirked away. I wanted depserately to smack the smirk off of his face. Any legal foot in the door to make this little dirtbag squirm is welcome in my book. This is a valuable "in" that will give all those real issues some of the play they deserve.

    I think that all of this drivel about lawyergate being only a partisan issue is a case of reasonoids protesting too much; that is, overcompensating for not saying enough about Gonzalez when it counted, or at least trying to hide the fact that so many of them were ignoring commentators who did say something about the damage that was being done. This harping about the fact that it was a partisan shoe that finally dropped reeks a bit. The Dems had no power at the time so many of these other abuses were committed, and our media has always royally sucked ass. The story seems to lie elsewhere.

  • ||

    I think that all of this drivel about lawyergate being only a partisan issue is a case of reasonoids protesting too much; that is, overcompensating for not saying enough about Gonzalez when it counted, or at least trying to hide the fact that so many of them were ignoring commentators who did say something about the damage that was being done.

    Am I completely misreading your sarcasm, or are you from that alternate universe where Spock has a goatee?

  • ||

    That's a good point about the attention given to this scandal being comparable to Capone's tax evasion case, ontyous, but Reason was making all kinds of noise about the torture memo, the illegal snooping, and the other shady practices Gonzo signed off on, in real time.

  • ||

    One thing that rarely seems to ever be brought up is that if these very few attorneys are getting fired for, effectively, disagreeing with the priorities of this administration, then what on Earth are the rest of the attorney's doing that these few refused to do?

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    The fact is that the federal prosecutors all serve at the pleasure of the President. The administration can therefore fire any, or all of them, at any time, for any reason. The fact that 8 were fired, even for reasons you disapprove of, does not in and of itself constitute an abuse of power. When Reagan came into office, all 93 federal prosecutors were let go. Clinton did the same thing, with Janet Reno famously granting them only 10 days to vacate.

    Now, this does not put such firings beyond criticism. If you disagree with the administration's justifications for firing the prosecutors, that's fine. However, your case is weak if you are trying to say that this constitutes some form of corruption, or abuse of power. To the contrary, as I stated, any President can fire any, or all of the federal prosecutors on a whim.

    Adding grist to the mill, it appears that Gonzalez did lie to Congress. Regardless of the legality of the firings, this is likely to get Gonzalez the boot. At least those prosecutors that were fired will get to see him suffer a comuppance.

  • ||

    How crazy is this argument? The Dems have had a majority for slightly more than 2 months and the author is saying that they've been sluggish in holding the administration accountable? This author is a premature ejaculator for sure.

  • ||

    "It's sad, but not terribly surprising, that it would take accusations of excessive partisanship - that is, unfairly using the office to gain a political advantage over the Democrats - to spur the Democrats in Congress to take any meaningful action"

    This is not a reasonable critique. It's just a cute statement that would lead me to conclude that you are more critical of the Democrats who have been in control of Congress for just shy of three months as opposed to the Republican's who have been in control for years and have done absolutely zero oversight. The priorities of the Justice Department are troubling, but they are saddly just one of the endless examples of poor decision making in Bush's governnment. I find the possibliity that Bush and Company might have been seeking to strip America of her Democracy by using the Justice Department to harass and potentially jail members of the opposition party as far more important then going after just another example of misplaced priorites. We should all thank our luck stars that Bush is so completely incompetent or else we might be on the verge of living in a one pary Authoritarian state with only the trappings of a Democratic Republic.

  • Robert H. Jackson||

    With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him.

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