Water Man Spouts

Monday, August 27, 2007

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

"This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land …" -- Article VI of the Constitution of the United States

Alberto Gonzales is a thief. In fact, he is one of the worst thieves in this nation’s history. He was among the gang of criminals who has been seeking to steal the United States Constitution from you and me. Thus, while it was good to see him resign in disgrace today, it is extremely important that the Congress not allow this to be the end of their investigations of his abuses of the office of Attorney General.

The US Attorney General’s office was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789. This was one of the most significant actions taken by Congress. Along with the creation of one of the earliest and most important cabinet positions, the act defined the federal judicial system. Until then, there were questions about how the federal court system would work. These questions involved issues such as the idea of a unified federal court system (the British model was divided in three parts), and about if federal courts could impose dictatorial control similar to what the 13 Colonies had fought against.

The 1789 Act brought about the Supreme Court’s famous Marbury v. Madison decision in 1803. Through one of the most intense periods of our nation’s history, some of the most gifted leaders struggled to find the correct balance of powers for the country to transform from a republic to the promise of a Constitutional democracy. "I have never been able to see," James Madison noted in 1832, on the 1789 Judiciary Act, how "the Constitution itself could have been the supreme law of the land; or that the uniformity of Federal authority throughout the parts to it could be preserved; or that without the uniformity, anarchy and disunion could be prevented."

The Department of Justice was tasked with representing the federal government in all of the federal courts; with prosecuting those who violated federal law; with protecting the nation from internal subversion; and with providing legal advice for the executive branch, including the White House.

For much of its early history, the Department of Justice concentrated on issues such as tax evasion and antitrust cases. In 1908, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was created, to serve as the primary investigative tool for monitoring the threats posed by subversive elements in the US.

In 1940, Congress gave the Department of Justice control of the Immigration and Naturalization Services. This was as a result of the "Red Scare," from the WW1 to Eisenhower years. James Carroll’s "House of War" provides a fascinating review of this period in our nation’s history.

Starting in 1961, the Department of Justice began a dramatic transformation. Starting with President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the department expanded its mission when it became invested in civil rights reforms. President Lyndon Johnson continued the progressive themes of the DoJ Civil Rights Division, when he pressed to have violations of the 1964 Voting Rights Act prosecuted. The 1968 Fair Housing Act, the 1974 Equal Educational Opportunities Act, and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act all continued to make the Department of Justice represent the needs of all Americans, no matter which political party was in office at the time.

Certainly, the Department of Justice has never been perfect. There were gross violations of the law during the J. Edgar Hoover years. The problems were as real as the other scandals that threatened our form of government. There was John Mitchell in the Nixon/Watergate era. There was Ed Meese in the Reagan/ Iran-Contra era.

Even in those dangerous times, the Department of Justice was recognized as having the authority to name special prosecutors to investigate cases involving suspected crimes by members of the executive branch. The 1978 Ethics in Government Act was in recognition of the need for an office of independent counsel, and to outline the steps the Attorney General should take in cases of suspected executive branch malfeasance.

As the nation discovered during the Plame scandal investigation, the more recent congressional reauthorization destroyed the concept of an independent counsel with broad discretion to protect the interests of citizens such as you and I. Yet the errors and the purposeful abuses from the pre-2001 years pale in comparison to what has taken place under the Bush-Cheney administration.

Alberto Gonzales has participated in some of the most serious crimes against the United States Constitution, actions that threaten our form of government. His resigning in disgrace is not enough. If a banker embezzled a million dollars, his simply resigning his position would not be considered the end of the problem. The police would continue to investigate; the DA would prosecute; and the court would sentence him. In this case, Alberto has done things far, far worse than embezzling a small fortune. He has attempted to steal our national treasure.


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