The inspector general at the Justice Department says a top aide to
former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales used political considerations
in screening candidates for employment at the agency in violation of
federal law. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill, where Fine
presented his report.
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary
Committee, inspector general Glenn Fine said a top adviser to former
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Monica Goodling, improperly used
partisan considerations in the hiring of agency lawyers and immigration
"We concluded that Goodling regularly considered
political affiliations in screening candidates for career positions at
the department, which also was misconduct and violated department
policy and federal civil service law," said Fine.
Goodling chose candidates seen as pro-Republican and supportive of
President Bush and rejected those she deemed too liberal.
was particularly damaging to the department because it resulted in high
quality candidates to important details [jobs] being rejected in favor
of less qualified candidates," he said.
Federal law and Justice
Department policy require that career officials be hired on merit, and
prohibit discrimination based on political affiliations - a point noted
by committee chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.
infusing politics into the hiring of career assistant attorney
positions, senior career attorney positions, main Justice detailees,
young career attorneys, and immigration judges, this administration and
its operative have done serious damage to the rule of law," he said.
General Fine blames the situation on a lack of oversight, but says
there is no evidence that former Attorney General Gonzales was aware of
Fine described one case in which Goodling
rejected a terrorism prosecutor for a job in counter-terrorism at the
department because his wife was involved in local Democratic Party
politics, and chose a less experienced lawyer.
Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, says there are serious implications to the actions.
revelations are not just a blow to the department's reputation, but
they also affect our ability to keep the country safe, it seems," he
Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who succeeded Gonzales,
issued a statement saying he is disturbed by the findings of the
inspector general. That statement did not go far enough for Senator
Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Judiciary
"I would like to see, frankly, a very forceful
statement out of the Department of Justice as to what they intend to
do, and what they think about it in some detail," said Specter. "They
have the prosecution responsibility."
Fine says the Justice
Department has taken steps to ensure that political considerations are
no longer used to screen applicants. Goodling no longer works at the