For those hoping investigations by the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility might shine some light on the scurrilous activities at the Bush Justice Department, today's Los Angeles Times
piece doesn't offer much solace.
The OPR, a watchdog of the Justice Department's lawyers and activities, has ceased to issue regular public reports of its investigations, some of which have resulted in the exoneration of attorneys accused of professional misconduct.
From the U.S. Attorney firing scandal
; to selective prosecution of Democratic political figures
; to unlawful detainment of terrorist suspects
, the OPR is facing increasingly weighty caseloads, and meeting their investigations with decreasing transparency.
As the Times
reports, the changes in disclosure have come with a new administration:
After President Bush took office in 2001, the Justice Department reversed a decade-old policy of publicly disclosing detailed summaries of OPR investigations of department lawyers found to have committed professional misconduct. Janet Reno, attorney general since 1993, had believed that publicizing the information would bolster confidence in the department; and during her tenure she had authorized the release of two dozen public summaries of misconduct cases -- including one against then-FBI Director William S. Sessions.
The OPR also has been far behind in producing required annual public reports summarizing its activities. Last month, it released its report covering fiscal year 2005. That means many investigations undertaken during the tenure of former Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales remain under wraps.
Two weeks ago the OPR issued a report
, along with the Office of the Inspector General, that found that the two attorneys
in the Justice Department broke federal law
when they hired new lawyers for the DOJ's Honors Program based on "political and ideological" factors
But besides the report with the Inspector General, the OPR has failed to disclose the results of its investigations of misconduct relating to the war on terrorism.
According the documents obtained by the Times
, the OPR has exonerated lawyers involved in two high-profile terrorism investigations:
According to a redacted copy of a confidential OPR report obtained by The Times, the office found that department lawyers had not engaged in misconduct in connection with the controversial practice of using special warrants to round up and incarcerate men after Sept. 11 who were considered witnesses to crimes. Human rights groups said the technique was a way to illegally detain, sometimes for months, dozens of Muslims whom the government suspected but could not prove were engaged in criminal activity.
The report, issued more than a year ago, concluded: "Department of Justice attorneys involved did not misuse the material witness statute, and thus did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment."
There's nothing sinister going on in the lack of reports, insists Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis. He says that the decision was merely made to conserve resources and protect the privacy of accused attorneys:
"My goal is to get fair and speedy dispositions of allegations against our attorneys," he said, "and, to the extent possible, let the public know what we did and why we did it without unnecessarily or gratuitously . . . publicly humiliating our line attorneys as individuals."