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Mukasey to ABA: ‘The system failed’

¬†Attorney General Michael Mukasey told a group Tuesday that the Justice Department’s hiring practices broke down, resulting in politically-motived hires made by officials whose power went unchecked.

Back in his native New York City to address the annual meeting of the American Bar Association, Mukasey’s remarks were forthright and contrite concerning the reports from the department’s inspector general that found aide Monica Goodling and others used screening questions to evaluate candidates based on their loyalty to the administration.

The conduct described in those reports is disturbing. The mission of the Justice Department is the evenhanded application of the Constitution and the laws enacted under it. That mission has to start with the evenhanded application of the laws within our own Department. Some people at the Department deviated from that strict standard, and the institution failed to stop them.

I want to stress that last point because there is no denying it: the system failed. The active wrong-doing detailed in the two joint reports was not systemic in that only a few people were directly implicated in it. But the failure was systemic in that the system – the institution — failed to check the behavior of those who did wrong. There was a failure of supervision by senior officials in the Department. And there was a failure on the part of some employees to cry foul when they were aware, or should have been aware, of problems.

Mukasey, a former New York federal judge brought in by the White House to repair the damage that occurred under his predecessor Alberto Gonzales, told the gathering that he had instituted several reforms at the department to bring balance to the hiring process, including training in government ethics practices. The text of his speech in its entirety can be found after the jump. 

Full text of the speech after the jump: Continue reading

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