EDITORIAL: No blank check on justice

Media pundits, commentators and spin doctors are busy once again, interpreting the choice by President Bush of Michael B. Mukasey to replace the disgraced Antonio Gonzales as attorney general. Missing from most of the “analysis” is the fact that Bush has turned the entire Justice Department, if not justice in America itself, into a shambles.

Civil rights enforcement, laws against wiretapping, laws prohibiting torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, and laws against warrantless searches, to name only a few, have all gone out the window at the Bush Department of Justice. Meanwhile, the department has been turned into a Karl Rove/GOP political campaign machine, much to the dismay of many career employees who thought they were there to enforce the law, not pervert it. A state of emergency exists in the entire area of federal law enforcement and safeguarding of human rights.

The Senate should not confirm Mukasey or anyone else unless the nominee states under oath, in very concrete terms, what he or she will do to repair the dismantled state of the rule of law in our country.

The president’s nominee should pledge to gather civil rights leaders from across the land to help the Justice Department draft a plan to restore the historic role of its Civil Rights Division. The nominee should be required to turn over to the Senate the names of all those in the department, and higher up, who violated federal laws against torture and warrantless wiretapping, and should pledge to prosecute all of them.

The nominee should turn over to the Senate any Justice Department records related to the use of “national security letters” to illegally intimidate U.S. citizens.

In short, Mukasey or anyone else should not be confirmed unless they swear under oath that they will restore justice to the Justice Department and to the country that the Justice Department has robbed, and unless they declare concretely how they will undertake this essential responsibility.

No matter what, Congress and the public will have to keep on top of ensuring that we have a Justice Department that works for us.