Friday, August 3, 2007

"For Obvious Reasons, Someone _________ Would Be Best"

The Department of Justice released more documents (here) related to the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006.  An e-mail from Kyle Sampson, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' former chief of staff, to fellow DOJ officials Michael Elston, Williams Moschella, and Monica Goodling, has an interesting redaction.  There was an exchange of e-mails in mid-January 2007 related to a newspaper story about the resignation -- soon to be confirmed as a firing -- of Carol Lam, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California.  The article quotes the head of the FBI's San Diego office as stating that the way her resignation/removal was handled was "unfair," and the DOJ people were more than a little upset that an FBI official would break from the united front that these were just resignations in the ordinary course of business.  At the end of the chain (see page 9 of the documents), Sampson writes, "Monica was checking out __________________.  For obvious reasons, _____________ would be best." [Italics added]  DOJ has routinely excised the names of individuals not involved in the firings from the documents submitted to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.  But the second redaction is intriguing: What are the "obvious reasons," and does it refer to an individual or perhaps to a particular trait or background for a candidate that would make the person an acceptable U.S. Attorney?  Recall that the office had already convicted one sitting Congressman, Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, and was pursuing an investigation of at least one other Representative.  One phrase used by Sampson in another e-mail referred to some U.S. Attorneys as "loyal Bushies," and there was certainly a measure of sensitivity to appointing those with close ties to the Administration. 

The redaction appears to be more than a single word, and perhaps it is a specific reference to that person's current job that would effectively identify the individual referenced in the first sentence.  Needless to say, each batch of documents is intriguing.  One also has to wonder why this e-mail string was not disclosed earlier.  The recipients, along with Sampson, have had their e-mail accounts thoroughly reviewed, and all have testified before Congress, including Goodling under a grant of immunity.  It is clear from this batch that the press inquiries were quite unwelcome, and the toll taken on DOJ from the firings has been far more than anyone could have anticipated. (ph)

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