Gonzales's Failures Broader Than Prosecutor Purge
Another Guantanamo Bay detainee apparently killed himself yesterday amid concerns that conditions at our terror suspect prison camp in Cuba have not gotten measurably better for the condemned men now going on Year Six of indefinite confinement there. The news came on the same day that the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department announced it had widened the scope of its inquiry into the Department's hiring practices as a result of Monica Goodling's damning testimony last week before the House Judiciary Committee.
No, I'm not arguing that the two developments are related. But the suicide is a timely reminder that the scandal over the firing of U.S. Attorneys last year is not the only or even the most serious failing of the Justice Department under the stewardship of Alberto R. Gonzales. Even if you contend that the prosecutor purge was "politics as usual"-- a procedural failure -- then the disaster at Gitmo surely has to rank as a major and substantive one. Gonzales alone might not have been able to "fix" Gitmo but he surely could have and should have done more than he has. After all, he's largely responsible for the shoddy treatment the men received when they initially arrived at the camp.
First, and famously, Gonzales all but ensured that some of the detainees would be "tortured" -- however it is defined -- when as White House counsel he relaxed the rules governing interrogation techniques. Then, as Attorney General, Gonzales went along with the White House's atrocious new "military commissions" law, which contains provisions that deny the men at Gitmo some basic due process rights.
And if you still think that there is no cause-and-effect between the Attorney General's lack of leadership and independence and the demise of the Justice Department's ability to recognize and enforce the rule of law, then consider the day's other big legal story -- there is chaos in our immigration courts as asylum seekers face "wide disparities" in rulings depending upon "the location of the court and the sex and professional background of judges." As this story suggests, you can thank Goodling and Gonzales for that, too.
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