Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Response to Gonzales

The Washington Post carried Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' preview to his forthcoming testimony that is scheduled for this coming Tuesday. One certainly has to give credit to the Attorney General for speaking publicly and accepting responsibility for what he calls his "role in allowing this matter to spin into an undignified Washington spectacle."  But his remarks do raise some concerns:

1. Gonzales states that he has "no basis to believe that anyone involved in this process sought the removal of a U.S. Attorney for an improper reason."  Can we be so sure?  Who is conducting the investigation?  And was anyone outside the process seeking the removal of a U.S. Attorney for an improper reason, and who is investigating outsiders?  And why does it seem that there are contradictions here (see Washington Post here)?

2. Gonzales states that he has "asked the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility to further investigate this matter." (emphasis added). Note the organization chart that shows that this office reports to the Deputy Attorney General who reports to the Attorney General. Is this an independent investigation?  Further, this body would be limited to internal individuals and would not be focused on improper activity that might have occurred outside the office.

3. Gonzales states that "[i]n recent weeks I have met with more than 70 U.S. attorneys around the country to hear their concerns and discuss ways to improve communication and coordination between their offices and the Justice Department."  Doesn't he have an "effective program" already in place to provide oversight? Would the operation of this office be sufficient if a U.S. Attorney were looking at this conduct as they typically look at corporations to determine if there was "due diligence"?

4. Gonzales states that "I have ordered the release of thousands of pages of internal documents."  But has he provided everything that is relevant and was it provided timely?  Congress has the power to subpoena, but are we missing the possibility of a search here, a search like DOJ did to the office of Rep. William Jefferson (see here).  And who is determining what is being turned over?  Is there an independent person examining the documents to make certain that all items of importance are in fact being released?

5. Gonzales does not state anything about the lost emails at the White House (see here).  Is he investigating this?  Does he find this odd? If this happened in activity unrelated to his office, how would he handle these lost emails?

Gonzales piece is titled "Nothing Improper," and he may be accurate that nothing improper occurred here.  But is he willing to allow for an independent investigation to confirm this?


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