United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has long time connections to President Bush. It dates back to Mr. Bush, as Governor of Texas naming him as his general counsel while Gonzales was a partner in the Houston firm of Vinson and Elkins during the time the firm represented Enron. Later he served as Texas Secretary of State before being appointed to the Texas Supreme Court by Mr. Bush. After Mr. Bush was elected President, Gonzales was appointed to serve as President Bush’s White House Counsel. In 2004 Mr. Bush nominated him to replace outgoing Attorney General John D. Ashcroft. Before being confirmed by the Republican dominated Senate, he had been sharply criticized for his role in the "torture memos" which had advised President Bush that prisoners captured in Afghanistan or elsewhere did not have prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions and any contrary idea was described in the memo as "obsolete." At age 49, he became the first Hispanic Attorney General in U.S. history. But, the controversy continued after his appointment over his position regarding such things as his position on domestic spying and other issues of privacy as well as his views about constitutional rights of Americans.
During Mr. Bush’s administration there has been criticism of playing politics with the position of U.S. Attorney in order to protect friends of the administration or avoid embarrassment to the administration. The acting U.S. Attorney in Guam, Frederick Black, was directing a long term investigation into public corruption of Governor Carl Gutierrez which had produced indictments. But a day after a Guam grand jury issued a subpoena regarding payments involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramof who had ties to the White House, Mr. Black was relieved of his position by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and the administration. A more recent example of the Bush administration exhibiting heavy handed arrogance in political meddling, is the removal of U.S. Attorneys around the country and their replacement without Senate approval. The most notable is that of U.S. Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego who has been relieved of her position in middle of corruption investigation which has political implications for the Bush administration. Ms. Lam led the investigation that resulted in the conviction of former Representative Randy Cunningham. But while pursuing corruption involving a deep pocket Republican political contributor and while developing evidence implicating people highly placed in the Bush administration, she was suddenly relieved of her job.
In defending the actions of the Bush administration, Mr. Gonzales made repeated references to a provision in the US Patriot Act which allows the President to remove U.S. Attorneys and make "interim" replacements without Senate confirmation in order to provide for continuity during the "conflict". In seven recent cases of removal of U.S. Attorneys and appointment of "interims" without Senate approval Mr. Gonzales insisted, in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the changes had nothing to do with political considerations. But, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) noted: "The Bush administration is pushing out U.S. attorneys from across the country under the cloak of secrecy and then appointing indefinite replacements." A bill has been introduced to end the practice. Political meddling, especially to hide corrupt practices, is not the sort of thing one would expect in the United States. Mr. Gonzales and the Bush administration should stop playing politics to protect politically embarrassing corruption from discovery and prosecution.