Justice Department must be reformed, de-politicized
When John Ashcroft became Attorney General of the United States in 2001, he announced the Department of Justice’s initiative against “public corruption.” However, evidence has developed that the Department of Justice has been the source, not the opponent, of this corruption. Specifically, a study has come out that demonstrates that the Bush Administration’s Justice Department, under both Ashcroft and Gonzales, committed political profiling on local Democrats. This is a violation of the individual’s freedom to speak and associate and cannot be allowed to stand.
Political profiling refers to the fact that the DOJ investigated and indicted local figures who were tied to the Democratic Party significantly more than other parties. In fact, according to the study done by Dr. Donald Shields, professor at the University of Missouri, those tied to the Democrats were investigated and indicted at least seven times more than those tied to the Republicans.
One might argue that Democrats are just more corrupt than Republicans. Actually, the statistics don’t support that argument. When examining statewide or federal investigations, the numbers follow the national percentages for how many people affiliate with each party. Dr. Shields explains that the reason one can only see this persecution on the local level is because it works to disrupt the grass roots base of the Democratic Party and avoid the attention of the national media. These investigations and indictments, while not convictions, are still slanderous for political figures. Our society, which is supposed to believe in “innocent until proven guilty,” associates these actions with guilt, thus ruining the reputations of the local figures. But the worst part is that many figures do not have the ability to fight these attacks. These legal suits can take months — or even years — to settle, which can become very costly. Those that don’t have the money never get a chance to defend their innocence and are forced to settle.
In addition to Dr. Shield’s study, the best evidence of this misconduct came in a few years ago. In August 2007, Alberto Gonzales resigned from his position as Attorney General of the United States. This resignation came after allegations that he was aware of and took part in the politically-based firing of U.S. Attorneys. While Gonzales refused to admit there was any truth to the allegations — claiming instead to have a remarkably faulty memory — two of the U.S. attorneys that were controversially dismissed, John McKay and David Iglesias, spoke out against both Gonzales and the White House. During investigations, the two testified that the Bush Administration’s political strategist, Karl Rove, was behind their firings. Iglesias wrote later in his book, “In Justice: An Insider’s Account of the War on Law and Truth in the Executive Branch,” that he specifically was fired because he refused to begin investigations against Democratic officials strategically before the 2006 elections. Their testimony only gives further backing to the theories of Dr. Shields, who was also brought before the House Judiciary to testify about his findings. Together, this evidence makes a very strong case that the Justice Department has committed political prosecutions for the past eight years.
Unfortunately, the investigations were swept aside for the 2008 elections. It is saddening that such an important topic was given less time before Congress than baseball players using steroids. The need for transparency in the Justice Department is apparent and steps must be taken to avoid the re-occurrence of such horrendous violations of our first amendment right, whatever the affiliation of the victims. As Dr. Shields said, “it should be in the best interests of Republicans, Democrats and Independents to see that reforms are enacted.” While this injustice might fall upon just a few today, allowing it to continue in the future will jeopardize all.
Phil Cardarella is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a liberal columnist for The Eagle. You can reach him at email@example.com.