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We reported yesterday that Douglas Feith, who played hookie from the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties last week, was about to get subpoenaed.

And now we're one step closer.

In a hearing today, the subcommittee voted to authorize chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) to issue a subpoena to compel Feith's testimony. In a statement at the hearing, Nadler said:

It is simply not prudent to rely on the voluntary promise to appear of a witness who already has broken [a voluntary] agreement. I hope that it will not become necessary to issue this subpoena, but Congress has the prerogative and duty to conduct meaningful oversight to ensure a robust system of checks and balances.

Following the Inspector General's report on bias in the Justice Department hiring process, and John Conyers (D-MI)'s call to action, Attorney General Michael Mukasey has issued a statement accepting all of the recommendations from the OIG:

I appreciate the hard work and collaboration of the Department's Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of Inspector General on this report. The Department overhauled its Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program hiring processes last year, and I am pleased that the report remarked positively on these institutional changes.

I have also made clear, and will continue to make clear, that the consideration of political affiliations in the hiring of career Department employees is impermissible and unacceptable. The joint report issued today contains additional recommendations aimed at ensuring that political and ideological affiliations are not inappropriately used to evaluate candidates for these programs; I accept, and have directed the implementation, of all of those recommendations.

In today's report on bias in hiring practices at the Department of Justice, the Office of the Inspector General found Michael Elston "violated federal law" by deselecting candidates based on their liberal affiliations:

As explained below, we concluded that Elston violated federal law and Department policy by deselecting candidates based on their liberal affiliations. First, the data analysis indicates that highly qualified candidates with liberal or Democratic Party affiliations were deselected at a much higher rate than highly qualified candidates with conservative or Republican Party affiliations. Second, Elston admitted that he may have deselected candidates in a few instances due to their affiliations with certain liberal causes.

The DOJ IG report released this morning, besides providing some memorable quotes on woodland creatures, also gave some valuable statistics on the biased hiring practices of Honor Program attorneys.

The nomination process for attorneys had two stages. First, individual offices in DOJ reviewed applications and selected certain ones for interviews. Then, a Screening Committee selected by the deputy attorney general reviewed the selections and made nominations for final interviews. This was a change made in 2002 when the "involvement of political appointees at the Department in the hiring process was greatly expanded."

The OIG broke down nominees into those that they classified as "Liberal," "Conservative" and "Neutral."* They then evaluated the deselection (removal from the hiring process) rate of those nominees between 2002 and 2007. They found a strikingly high percentage of identifiable liberals who were culled from the process compared to identifiable conservatives.

For example, in 2002, of the 100 "liberals" nominated, 80% were "deselected" by the Screening Committee. Of the 46 "conservatives" nominated, only 9% were deselected.

Chart 3 of the report (pdf) details the discrepancy:



Perhaps even more disturbing, of the 71 candidates who were deemed "Highly Qualified" (attended a top 20 ranked law school, were in the top 20% of their class and had previously held judicial clerkships and were members of the law review), 37% were deselected.

And the kicker?

15 out of the 17 highly qualified candidates who were categorized as "Liberal" were deselected. Zero of the five highly qualified "Conservative" candidates were deselected.



But it gets better and better!

Overall, of the applicants nominated, 70% of those who identified as Democrats were de-selected, 32% who identified as Neutral were deselected, and just 11% who identified as Republicans were deselected.

The Screening Committee was an amorphous group, and as the OIG describes, DOJ offices that sent their recommendations to the Screening Committee, often did not know how the Committee members were selected, who sat on it, or the Committee's criteria in selecting or deselecting candidates.

So who was on the elusive committee?

In 2002, the OIG determined that "Andrew Hruska, then Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General, and David Higbee, then Deputy Associate Attorney General, participated in the screening process, and that Howard Nielson, then Counselor to the Attorney General, and Adam Ciongoli, then Counselor to the Attorney General, may also have participated in the screening process."

[Late Update: Chief of Staff for the Deputy Attorney General, Michael Elston was named in the report as being in violation of federal laws for weighing "political and ideological" leanings in the hiring process. Elston and Esther McDonald, a former DOJ lawyer, were both found in violation of DOJ policy.] ____ * From a footnote in the OIG's report on political designations assigned to candidates:
"We recognize that these determinations are not precise and that categorizing organizations as liberal or conservative can be somewhat subjective. The appendix contains a listing of those organizations we categorized as liberal or conservative in our analysis of the candidates' affiliations. For example, we categorized as "liberal" organizations promoting causes such as choice in abortion issues, gay rights, defense of immigrants, separation of church and state, and privacy rights. Examples of organizations we considered liberal include Earthjustice, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Lambda Law Association, and Ayuda. We categorized as "conservative" groups promoting causes such as defense of religious liberty, traditional family values, free enterprise, limited government, and right to life issues. Examples of groups we considered conservative include the Federalist Society, the Alliance Defense Fund, the Christian Legal Society, and the Family Research Council. In reviewing candidates' applications, we considered a candidate's affiliations to be "neutral" if the organizations listed did not have an apparent liberal or conservative viewpoint, or if the candidate listed affiliations with both liberal and conservative organizations."

Does arms dealer AEY, Inc., still have some U.S. defense contracts?

Even though it's been on a U.S. State Department Arms Trafficking Watchlist for three years?

Even though it's been under federal investigation for several months?

Even though its president was arrested last week on federal charges related to arms exports?

Even though military officials were testifying about the company this morning on Capital Hill?

Maybe so.

At the House oversight committee hearing this morning, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) asked military contracting officials:

"I hear and I read that the contracts have been canceled, terminated. Now I was in Iraq at the Taji weapons depot a few weeks ago and I asked a commanding general there about the AEY contract. He said 'yeah, they're shipping into us.' So myself and Mr. Platts from Pennsylvania actually asked the general to give us some detail and went around and started opening up some crates. They were all AEY contracts, it looks like they're still performing in this contract, and that doesn't jive with the testimony and documents I have before me. So can you tell me, is AEY still performing on some contracts in Iraq?"


Jeffrey Parsons, Executive Director of the Army Contracting Command responded: "Sir, I am not aware, and I will have to get back to you on whether they are still performing..."

"That's not good enough," Lynch said.

Late Update: Here's the video of Lynch's query.

Arms dealer AEY Inc. and its 22-year-old president have been on the U.S. State Department's Arms Trafficking Watchlist for years.

But that didn't keep them from landing a nearly $300 million Pentagon contract providing ammo to the Afghan Army.

AEY is getting a lot of scrutiny since its 22-year-old president and three others from the firm were indicted last week and accused of providing useless and illegal Chinese-made ammunition under a U.S. government contract.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill today, Stephen D. Mull, Acting Assistant Secretary of State at the bureau of Political Military Affairs, said AEY Inc. was placed on the watchlist in January 2005. AEY's president, Efraim Diveroli, was individually placed on the list in 2006, Mull said. They were placed on the list for reasons that remain classified, officials said.

AEY was awarded the $300 million Afghanistan contract in January 2007.

Military officials stammered to explain how the massive deal sailed through the Army's contracting system without any red flags.

"The contracting officers that execute the contracts are not required to go and look at the watchlist," said Brigadier General William N. Phillips, U.S. Army, Commanding General at Picatinny Arsenal and head of the Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command, told the committee

Jeffrey Parsons, Executive Director of the Army Contracting Command said: "I'm not sure whether that watch list is accessible to people outside the State Department."

Lawmakers also asked questions about the Albanian arms dealer who AEY who sold the ammo to AEY.

His name was Ylli Pinari. He was president of the Military Export Import Company of Albania (MEICO) in Albania. And he was placed on a U.S. State Department Arms Trafficking Watchlist back in 2005. The reasons for putting him on the watchlist are also classified.

The purpose of the watchlist is to identify people and companies who "might be unreliable recipients of defense articles and services licensed by the State Department." Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, (D-MA) described the situation as "a disgrace"

"This kid was 19 years old and he got a $300 million contract," Lynch said. "Has anybody been fired for this? Can I ask the panel: Has anybody gotten their walking papers for this?

No, Parsons replied, nobody's been fired over the AEY investigation.

From AFP

US Ambassador to Albania John Withers on Tuesday denied any involvement in the trafficking of Chinese weapons after allegations of US congressional investigators emerged in a New York Times report.

"Ambassador Withers is aware of the claims ... He is studying the content of that letter and will prepare a full refutation of any allegations against the US embassy or himself once he has done so," the embassy said in a statement.

In a letter to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Congressman Henry Waxman said Withers had helped conceal illegal Chinese origins of ammunition that a Pentagon contractor bought to supply Afghan security forces.

Following this morning's release of the DOJ inspector general's report on political bias in hiring and firing practices, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), called on Attorney General Michael Mukasey to implement the IG's recommendations:

Yet again, the Department has been putting politics where it doesn't belong. The report concludes that under former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' tenure in 2006, several Department officials including Michael Elston violated federal law and Justice Department policy. We already know from the Committee testimony of Monica Goodling that she 'crossed a line' in hiring career attorneys as well.

When it comes to the hiring of nonpartisan career attorneys, our system of justice should not be corrupted by partisan politics. It appears the politicization at Justice was so pervasive that even interns had to pass a partisan litmus test.


The committee's recommendations included making sure guidelines "explicitly state that political affiliations may not be used as criteria in evaluating candidates and that ideological affiliations cannot be used as a proxy to discriminate on the basis of political affiliation;" changing the DOJ Human Resource Order to emphasize that hiring attorneys must be "merit based," and having Department leaders be "vigilant to ensure that political or ideological affiliations are not used to select candidates."

[Late Update]: Attorney General Michael Mukasey has issued a statement saying that the Justice Department will immediately implement the suggestions of the Inspector General's report.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said today that the "troubling" report "confirms our findings and our fears that the same senior Department officials involved with the firing of United States Attorneys were injecting improper political motives into the process of hiring young attorneys."

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) echoed those sentiments, stating that the report "confirms that the Bush Administration was engaged in a deliberate effort to inject partisan politics into the administration of justice."

If it's not anarchism ruining an applicant's chances at the Justice Department, it's a love of wolves.

An email conversation between two former DOJ officials, reviewed by the OIG in the course of its investigation of the politicization of DOJ hiring in the Honors Program, exposes partisan thought processes.

From page 18 of the report (pdf):

. . .[I]n one e-mail exchange [Andrew] Hruska, [then Senior Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General] forwarded an application from a candidate from Montana to William Mercer, then U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana. Hruska asked Mercer if this was "someone we want at DOJ?"

Mercer responded by e-mail that he was inquiring with a reference the candidate listed whom Mercer knew to find out "the scoop on intellect, personality, etc." Mercer added:

My initial reaction is that the guy is probably quite liberal. He is clerking for a very activist, ATLA-oriented justice. His law review article appears to favor reintroduction of wolves on federal lands, a very controversial issue here which pits environmentalists against lots of other interests, including virtually all conservative and moderate thinkers. I know of better candidates through our internship and clerkship programs who have applied to the honors program.


Mercer went on to become the Acting Associate Attorney General, while continuing to serve as a U.S. Attorney in Montana. The double dipping and entanglement with the U.S. Attorney scandal forced him to withdraw his name from consideration for the position and eventually resign from the department.

The story of arms dealer AEY Inc., run by the 22-year-old Miami man who was indicted last week, is getting worse by the minute.

Four government officials are testifying on Capitol Hill today about how the company ended up with a $300 million U.S. military contract providing unusable and probably illegal weapons to the Afghan Army.

So far, the officials haven't discussed the alleged State Department cover-up yet. But they are delving into AEY's previous contracts with the government and it doesn't look good.

In his opening statement, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) revealed a series of previous problems that the military had with AEY.

Documents produced to the Committee show that federal agencies terminated, withdrew, or canceled at least seven previous contracts with AEY. Under these contracts, AEY provided potentially unsafe helmets to our forces in Iraq, failed to deliver thousands of weapons, and shipped poor quality ammunition to U.S. Special Forces. Government contracting officials repeatedly warned of "poor quality," "damaged goods, " "junk" weapons, and other equipment in "the reject category. " And they complained the company repeatedly engaged in "bait and switch" tactics that were "hurting the mission."

One contracting official told us: " I just don't trust the guy. . . . I couldn't take anything he said credibly. " He told us that AEY was the single worst company he dealt with in Iraq, saying: "That was my lemon I had to make lemonade out of."


Nevertheless, AEY's formal record remained spotless, Defense Department officials said, party because the previous problems did not involve contracts large enough to trigger current reporting requirements.

"The system for vetting for contractors appear to be broken," Waxman said. "It's hard to imagine a less qualified contractor than AEY and yet this company was rated excellent by the Defense Department and it was awarded a contact worth $300 million. That is quite amazing to me."

TPMLivewire