Cover-Ups and Civil Liberties

Gonzales has politicized the Justice Department and misled Congress. It's time for him to resign.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is not fit to be the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Since President Bush swore him in on Feb. 3, 2005, Gonzales has steadily politicized the Justice Department, putting partisan administration priorities above the best interests of the American people. His involvement in the Bush administration’s prosecutor purge demonstrated his willingness to abuse his position and exploit the agency, whose mission is to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” Now, both liberal and conservative lawmakers, pundits, members of the media, and the American public are pushing for Gonzales’ resignation.

  • Gonzales has misled and may have lied under oath to Congress. On March 12, Gonzales assured the nation that he did not participate in the administration’s dismissal of eight well-respected U.S. attorneys: “I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on.” But emails released over the weekend show that the attorney general “was told of the dismissal plan on at least two occasions, in 2005 when the plan was devised and again in late 2006 shortly before the firings were carried out.” This inconsistency is just the latest from the attorney general on the prosecutor purge. On Jan. 18, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that the Bush administration never intended to take advantage of a Patriot Act provision that allows the president to appoint “interim” U.S. attorneys for an indefinite period of time without Senate confirmation. But emails from Dec. 2006 show that Gonzales’ then-chief of staff Kyle Sampson intended to use this provision to make an end-run around the Senate and evade the confirmation process.
  • Under Gonzales’ leadership, politics have chipped away at civil liberties. Politics has trumped civil liberties during Gonzales’ tenure at the Justice Department. Gonzales advised the president to shut down “a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program” when he “learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation.” Last week, Sharon Y. Eubanks, the “leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted a landmark lawsuit against tobacco companies,” said that “Bush loyalists” in Gonzales’ office “repeatedly ordered her to take steps that weakened the government’s racketeering case.” “The political people were pushing the buttons and ordering us to say what we said,” Eubanks said. “And because of that, we failed to zealously represent the interests of the American public.” More recently, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine concluded that FBI agents often demanded Americans’ personal data “without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances.” The administration’s abuses of requirements imposed by Congress were “precisely the provisions which President Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a ‘signing statement‘ as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act’s renewal into law.”

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