No Comment — June 21, 2007, 8:22 am

Write Congress to Right Justice

The Judiciary Committee wants your help in investigating Justice Department misconduct.

Yesterday, I appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in connection with legislation proposed to extend the scope of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act. While I was there I took some time to look into the status of Congressional oversight into the burgeoning scandal over the politicization of the prosecutorial function.

I learned that a good number of inquiries were being weighed at this point, involving the operations in the U.S. Attorney’s offices in Milwaukee, Montgomery, Little Rock and San Diego. In the course of the hearing I attended a number of sharp accusations were made concerning the conduct of the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia, which has been sitting on 17 cases involving contractors out of Abu Ghraib for three years without taking action. “This is unconscionable,” one congressman stated.

To all of this, a very flustered representative of the Department of Justice was hardly able to muster an answer. I discovered that a large group of Justice Department attorneys are now working actively with the Committee to expose corruption within their Department. Several of them were sitting in the hearing room observing the hearing in which I appeared. “You will note,” one of them said, “that the Justice Department’s spokesman used to reject indignantly all suggestions of political influence, saying they’re unfounded, and that career professionals are handling these cases. They didn’t do that today and in general they’ve stopped. At this point everyone knows that the Department has been politicized, especially the public integrity prosecutions–but no one knows exactly how far it goes. A large number of these cases are driven by political appointees, the stewardship is consciously political, and the whole process has jumped the tracks.”

I asked which parts of main Justice were now the focus of scrutiny. “Alberto Gonzales, Paul McNulty, Will Moschella, and the senior staff of each; the Civil Rights Division; the administrative staff for the U.S. Attorneys Offices; the Public Integrity Unit; the Office of Professional Responsibility.” Public Integrity was described as perhaps the most corrupted unit of the Department, though most of the attention so far has fallen on Civil Rights.

The Justice Department will probably use every tool at its disposal to obstruct the coming investigations into prosecutorial misconduct. However, from what I have heard about the cases from Milwaukee and Montgomery, both are blockbusters in which the initial queries have backed up suspicions of serious wrongdoing. These are the cases which will most likely figure soon in hearings, though this is what our military friends call a “target rich environment.”

Are you aware of misconduct by Justice Department officials in connection with a criminal prosecution, a voting rights case or any comparable matter? The Judiciary Committee has established a special web page for whistleblowers. Again, there is a special interest in collecting information about the conduct of the rogue prosecutions of Georgia Thompson in Milwaukee and former Governor Don Siegelman in Alabama (this is the case in which Karl Rove figures prominently). If you have details which will support the investigations of these cases, be sure to report them to the Judiciary Committee on the secured cite provided. We all have an interest in cleaning up the Justice Department and restoring integrity and public confidence in its work. And we have a long road to travel to get there.

Thanks to the many government employees who have furnished tips so far. We’ll continue to use them as the opportunity presents itself.

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Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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