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Commentary: Continuing scandals at Justice Department

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Even as the Bush administration fades into the sunset, the evidence of wrongdoing at the Department of Justice continues to pile up. The latest report comes from Justice's own inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility, who found that a former acting chief of the Civil Rights Division considered political affiliations in hiring and personnel actions.

That is supposed to be a violation of law, but it apparently was par for the course in this administration. According to a report from the McClatchy Washington Bureau, evidence that the former official, Bradley Schlozman, committed perjury in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was referred to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, who declined to prosecute. The 70-page report complains that the Civil Rights Division "improperly used political or ideological affiliations'' in hiring selections."

If all this sounds familiar, that's because it's hard to keep up with all the scandals that have roiled the Department of Justice for years. The report issued Tuesday is the fourth in a series of internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over the politicization of the department. That controversy, still under legal scrutiny, led to the resignations of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and more than a dozen other Justice and White House officials.

Former Federal Judge Michael Mukasey, Mr. Bush's third attorney general, has managed to deal with the worst scandals, but only a clean managerial slate can put the department on the road to healing. President-elect Obama has taken a decisive step by filling four senior department positions with individuals with strong records of integrity and a dedication to civil liberties. Dawn Johnsen, chosen to run the Office of Legal Counsel, for example, has been a strong critic of legal opinions used to expand the president's authority beyond traditional limits.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.

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