Daily Injustice—March 1, 2007

The scales of justice are often unfairly tipped

Upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, the author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel remarked: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Indeed, though daily we may bear witness to a myriad of injustices, we must never despair so much that we simply retreat into the shadows and cease to shine the light of truth upon the inhumanity occurring around us and to us. Silence is complicity. Protest is a duty.

Today, I protest this injustice, as reported by the Washington Post:

Fired U.S. Attorney Says Lawmakers Pressured Him

A political tempest over the mass firing of federal prosecutors escalated yesterday with allegations from the departing U.S. attorney in New Mexico, who said that two members of Congress attempted to pressure him to speed up a probe of Democrats just before the November elections.

David C. Iglesias, who left yesterday after more than five years in office, said he received the calls in October and believes that complaints from the lawmakers may have led the Justice Department to fire him late last year.

Iglesias also responded to allegations from Justice officials that he had performed poorly and was too often absent, citing positive job reviews and data showing increasing numbers of prosecutions. He also noted that he is required to serve 40 days a year in the Navy Reserve.

Iglesias declined to name the lawmakers who called him, but he said in an interview: “I didn’t give them what they wanted. That was probably a political problem that caused them to go to the White House or whomever and complain that I wasn’t a team player.”

Iglesias’s allegations were met with strong denials from the Justice Department yesterday but prompted the Democratic-controlled House and Senate judiciary committees to announce that they would issue subpoenas for testimony from Iglesias and other fired prosecutors if necessary. Iglesias said he would not testify unless subpoenaed. [full text]

One thought on “Daily Injustice—March 1, 2007

  1. Thanks for calling attention to this issue, David. Senator Whitehouse spoke on the floor of the senate last night about this issue. Here is the press release from his office:

    Former U.S. Attorney Whitehouse Protests Firings of Federal Prosecutors

    Alleges Politics Behind Unprecedented Ousters

    Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a former U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, spoke out on the Senate floor this afternoon to protest the Bush administration’s unprecedented firings of several U.S. Attorneys. Whitehouse was appointed U.S. Attorney by President Bill Clinton and served in that office from 1994-1998.

    “These men and women had been confirmed by the Senate, and the majority had been recognized by the Justice Department as well-qualified and performing admirably in their jobs. Several of them were involved in ongoing public corruption investigations. Yet, in an unprecedented step, this Administration showed them the door,� Whitehouse said. “The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that these firings were politically motivated. We need to get to the bottom of this.�

    Earlier today, former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said he was contacted by two members of Congress in mid-October who, he felt, pressured him for a pre-election indictment in an ongoing probe of a kickback scheme involving local Democrats. Iglesias told McClatchy Newspapers: “I believe that because I didn’t play ball, so to speak, I was asked to resign.â€?

    The Bush Administration has argued the prosecutors were ousted because they did not follow priorities set from the Department of Justice. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Whitehouse sits, that the firings were “performance-related� and attributable to ordinary staff turnover. However, the New York Times reported Sunday that in professional performance reviews, six of the eight prosecutors who were fired were rated as “‘well regarded’, ‘capable’ or ‘very competent.’�

    Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are leading a Senate inquiry into the spate of firings, in which Whitehouse is an active participant.

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