Friday, April 06, 2007

First rule: Disclose everything

In the "how to avoid charges of a coverup", the first rule is usually "disclose everything." If details start dribbling out from other sources over the course of days, it's going to hurt more than if you just lay everything out up front.

So in that sense, the current tussle over hundreds of as-yet unreleased documents related to the prosecutor firings is another bad step by Justice.

Democratic investigators were upset to learn about the additional batch of records in recent visits to the department, according to a Senate aide who requested anonymity to talk freely about the standoff.

The aide said the Senate Judiciary Committee "has lodged objections several times" about not being given the new documents. They were discovered over the past two weeks as staff investigators for the House and Senate judiciary panels, working in a special office inside the Justice Department, reviewed the censored portions of e-mails and other records that had already been sent to Capitol Hill in redacted form, according to Justice Department and Senate aides.

Another discovery of documents, another chunk taken out of any claim Justice has to the benefit of the doubt. From a damage-control and "restoring trust" point of view, they should just release documents to Congress and let the chips (and blame) fall where they may.

Justice claims the documents relate to personnel issues and it would be a breach of privacy to release them. Congress, on the other hand, understandably doesn't believe a word Justice says these days about the firings.

That said, this latest twist seems to be a bit of Congressional excess. Not only are some of the documents truly personal:

In particular, the official said, one document, several hundred pages long, was an internal administrative review of one of the fired prosecutors and was so sensitive that it would have been entirely redacted if it had been sent to Capitol Hill.

But Congressional aides were allowed to review the documents -- just not make copies or take notes. So it's not as if the contents have been hidden from the people that matter. If there was anything truly explosive in there, you can be sure that would come out somehow.

As long as Justice is letting investigators see the information in question, it doesn't matter if the rest of us find out about it. While Justice should be required to prove that the documents are too sensitive to release, if they can do so then Congress should drop its demands that they become public.

Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee said Gonzales cannot present his department's budget request until he settles the prosecutor flap -- thus raising more questions about whether he can effectively lead the department at this point. One could blame this entirely on the Democrats, of course, and certainly political calculations play into the decision. But the message here is that Congress has lost a lot of confidence in Gonzales, and his continued tenure as Justice head could lead Congress to view that department's budget requests unfavorably. It underlines the potential real-world costs of keeping Gonzales in place if he cannot adequately explain his actions.

Amid it all, another Republican -- Michigan Rep. Vern Ehlers -- says Gonzales should go.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Schumer and Leahy who should go! Those are the two most hate-filled, vindictive, partisan Senators we've EVER had. And now, they are blackmailing Gonzales with the entire Justice Department's budget over this???

Frankly, it makes no difference what the Justice Dept send those two. 3000+ documents apparently wasn't enough....they want everything they've got. And of course, Gonzales will not send over everything he has anymore than Schumer and Leahy would simply open up ALL their files and documents from their offices to the public. It's ridiculous.

And now----since Gonzales asked for his testimony to be moved up, Schumer and Leahy have POSTPONED it.

Lastly, Leahy asked for Gonzales' written testimony to be given to the Committee NOW....instead of the 48 hours before he testifies, which is the routine and normal procedure. Why? So, they can leak it to the press like they did Sampson's? Or maybe---so they can have their aides study it and find ways to counter it in advance?

Two very pitiful and shameful Sentors these two are!


4/06/2007 5:51 PM  

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