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One of a series of internal investigations into political meddling in the Bush administration Justice department has found — no surprise — political meddling.
Starting in 2002, administration political appointees began weeding out applicants to the department’s elite Honors Program for new qualified lawyers and to the summer internship program based on perceived ideology or political affiliations.
Applicants for the highly respected and sought after programs are supposed to be chosen purely on merit — grades, quality of law school, legal experience like clerkships — and in fact it is illegal under department policy and federal regulations to take into account political beliefs.
Yet the two officials passed over often better-qualified candidates to choose those with Republican and conservative credentials. They weeded out a Stanford grad for writing a law review article on gender discrimination in the military; a Harvard law grad for having written opinion pieces critical of the Patriot Act; another for having worked for Hillary Clinton. Certain buzzwords like "social justice" would land the applicant’s essay in the reject file.
The statistics alone are damning. In 2002, 91 percent of applicants to the Honors Program with conservative credentials were accepted, 20 percent with liberal. For the summer intern program, it was 97 percent and 16 percent.
These are not findings by a Democrat-controlled congressional committee. They are the work of the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility.
Other investigations into political meddling at Justice, once one of the most proudly independent agencies in Washington, are continuing and reportedly there has been one grand jury referral already.
Maybe if the administration had been a little less partisan in its choice of people it wouldn’t have been so badly embarrassed by the torture memos and the original plan for military tribunals, or lost three straight times before the Supreme Court on the detainees.
Attorney General Michael Mukasey seems to have the right attitude. He said he wanted to make "clear that the consideration of political affiliations in the hiring of career department employees is impermissible and unacceptable," not to mention illegal.