Justice Dept.'s Hiring Tactics Illegal, Report Says A report released Monday found that senior Justice Department officials considered political and ideological affiliations in selecting immigration judges, federal prosecutors and other candidates for jobs that are supposed to be free from politics.
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Justice Dept.'s Hiring Tactics Illegal, Report Says

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Justice Dept.'s Hiring Tactics Illegal, Report Says


Justice Dept.'s Hiring Tactics Illegal, Report Says

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris. Today, the Justice Department released its long-awaited report on Monica Goodling. She was the department's White House liaison and chief counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Last year, Goodling said this to the House Judiciary Committee.

Ms. MONICA GOODLING (Former Justice Department Official): I know I crossed the line.

NORRIS: On that day she admitted that she illegally screened job applicants based on their political ideology. Today's report finds that the hiring practices violated federal law. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO: Imagine you're applying for a job at the Justice Department. The job is supposed to be non-political, and during your interview, Monica Goodling asks: Why are you a Republican? Or: What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

These are real examples from today's report by the inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility. One job applicant said when he told Goodling he admired Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Goodling frowned and commented: But she's pro-choice.

The report describes how brick by brick Goodling dismantled the walls that are supposed to separate law enforcement from politics. According to the report, Goodling knew that what she was doing was wrong. She'd gave career applicants questionnaires that were only supposed to be for political jobs, and if the applicant pointed it out, she'd say it was a mistake and take away the questionnaire.

Ms. JAMIE GORELICK (Former Deputy Attorney General): This is the way you ruin a really stellar government agency.

SHAPIRO: Jamie Gorelick was deputy attorney general under President Clinton.

Ms. GORELICK: The credibility of the Department of Justice depends upon the American people understanding and believing that the process for the administration of justice is completely nonpartisan, and when you undermine that, you grievously harm the American people.

SHAPIRO: Goodling screened hundreds of job applicants all over the department. One experienced counterterrorism prosecutor did not get a job in Washington because he was married to a Democrat. As a result, the report says, a much less experienced attorney got the job. Another lawyer at the Justice Department lost her assignment because Goodling believed she's lesbian. NPR first broke that story last spring.

The attorney is Leslie Hagen, and Lisa Banks is her lawyer.

Ms. LISA BANKS (Attorney): It's been devastating for her career. She's a 20-year prosecutor with an unblemished record of excellent performance, departmental awards, and you know, when Monica Goodling and this administration believed that she might be gay, all of a sudden her career was completely derailed.

SHAPIRO: The report shows that after Goodling ousted Hagen, she also blocked Hagen from getting other positions she was qualified for. Goodling's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

Goodling was not the only one responsible for politicized hiring, though. According to the report, Kyle Sampson took the lead on hiring immigration judges. Sampson was the attorney general's chief of staff, and he treated immigration judges as political appointments instead of the career jobs that they are. He took recommendations from the White House and other Republicans.

Crystal Williams is with the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Ms. CRYSTAL WILLIAMS (American Immigration Lawyers Association): We've seen some people who perhaps were very helpful, say, in the Florida elections in 2000 and really have no other qualifications or knowledge of immigration who might be sitting in an immigration judge position now.

Sampson's lawyer, Brad Berenson, said his client made an honest mistake, believing that civil service rules did not apply to immigration judges.

This 140-page report is the second installment in an investigation that started more than a year ago. It began with the firing of seven U.S. attorneys on one day. That part of the story is still forthcoming. So is the chapter on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Today's report says Gonzales was not aware of what Goodling and Sampson were doing.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he's disturbed by the report and has made changes to ensure these problems don't happen again. One senior Justice official who worked very closely with Monica Goodling reacted to the report this way: I didn't realize how widespread Monica's activity was or how she got away with it. She was definitely on a mission. I had no clue.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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