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When Alberto R. Gonzales was appointed attorney general of the United States, we expressed skepticism about his ability to perform the role adequately, given his close ties to the president and previous conduct: “It is questionable whether Gonzales will exercise the independence of judgment that is necessary for the role of top lawyer in the nation.” Unfortunately, his two and a half years in office have confirmed our worst fears, and his recent resignation was long overdue. First and foremost, he failed to honor the Constitution and rule of law. He carried out, rather than questioned, White House policies on eavesdropping, treatment of detainees and establishment of military tribunals despite the likelihood that these measures violated, respectively, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, the Geneva Conventions and the Constitution. Moreover, during his tenure, the U.S. Department of Justice has become deeply politicized. There is significant evidence that several U.S. attorneys were fired for purely partisan reasons � in some cases because of their refusal to prosecute cases that might influence elections. Of particular concern is a criminal case that was brought, apparently to affect a gubernatorial election: the corruption conviction of Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin civil servant, which was reversed by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals immediately after oral argument. One judge called the evidence “beyond thin.” Also, as the testimony of White House liaison Monica Goodling revealed, DOJ used political criteria in hiring career attorneys, who are supposed to be selected based solely on merit. Further, lines of communication between the White House and DOJ were broadened immensely, allowing for undue influence on cases brought by DOJ. And then there was Gonzales’ testimony before Congress about the U.S. attorney firings: numerous “I don’t recalls” and even refusals to answer questions without saying why. Several of his statements contradicted others’ statements so as to raise the issue of perjury. Congress properly intends to continue its inquiries into several of these matters, and DOJ’s inspector general is now investigating some as well. We hope that Gonzales’ replacement will exercise the independence that he so sorely lacked. Among the first steps the new AG should take is announcing a policy that partisan politics must play no role in bringing cases and making personnel decisions.

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