Saturday, March 31, 2007

Justice Department Credibility Questioned

To me the most amazing aspect of the US Attorney firing fiasco is that these eight fired US Attorneys were Republicans appointed by Bush and fired by Bush, and they all went quietly when they were let go because they were loyal soldiers who understood that they serve at the pleasure of the President. We would never have known a thing about it had a Justice Department official not gone before a Congressional committee and in response to a question about the firings said that they were fired for performance reasons. This falsehood was too much for even these political appointees to take. Here is one of the fired, Bud Cummins, in Salon:
The president had an absolute right to fire us. We served at his pleasure, and that meant we could be dismissed for any reason or for no reason. And we all accepted that fact without complaint. When challenged by Congress, the leaders of the Department of Justice could have refused to explain. Or, they could have explained the truth. But apparently the truth behind some or all of the firings was embarrassing. So, instead, they said it was because of "performance." We didn't accept that, because it wasn't the truth.
As Cummins explains there was no review process implemented for any of them. They still don't know why they were really fired and as he says, given the dissembling by various members of the Department of Justice, these Justice Department employees don't really know either.

Cummins explains the damage this has done to the credibility of the Department of Justice and the US Attorneys offices around the country:

Put simply, the Department of Justice lives on credibility. When a federal prosecutor sends FBI agents to your brother's house with an arrest warrant, demonstrating an intention to take away years of his liberty, separate him from his family, and take away his property, you and the public at large must have absolute confidence that the sole reason for those actions is that there was substantial evidence to suggest that your brother intentionally committed a federal crime. Everyone must have confidence that the prosecutor exercised his or her vast discretion in a neutral and nonpartisan pursuit of the facts and the law.

Being credible is like being pregnant -- you either are, or you aren't. If someone says they "kind of" believe what you say, they are really calling you a liar. Once you have given the public a reason to believe some of your decisions are improperly motivated, then they are going to question every decision you have made, or will make in the future. That is a natural and predictable phenomenon.

It amazes me that the Attorney General still has a job. But then it took four years of ineptitude and disaster to convince the President to get rid of Donald Rumsfeld at Defense. And Gonzeles is a personal friend of the President going back years. So the damage continues.

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