Lichtblau's Incomplete Assault on Biased "Political Hiring" at Justice

An incomplete story infused with labeling bias: While the Federalist Society is "bedrock conservative," the Council on American-Islamic Relations merely "advocates civil liberties."

Justice Department reporter Eric Lichtblau, who splashed details of two classified intelligence programs onto the front page, made it there on Wednesday with a summary of a report alleging conservative ideological favoritism in a Justice Department lawyer recruiting program. But is that the whole story?

"Report Assails Political Hiring In Justice Dept." began:

Justice Department officials illegally used "political or ideological" factors in elite recruiting programs in recent years, tapping law school graduates with Federalist Society membership or other conservative credentials over more qualified candidates with liberal-sounding résumés, an internal report found Tuesday.

The report, prepared by the Justice Department's own inspector general and its ethics office, portrays a clumsy effort by senior Justice Department screeners to weed out candidates for career positions whom they considered "leftists," using Internet search engines to look for incriminating information or evidence of possible liberal bias.

One rejected candidate from Harvard Law School worked for Planned Parenthood. Another wrote opinion pieces critical of the USA Patriot Act and the nomination of Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court. A third applicant worked for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and posted an unflattering cartoon of President Bush on his MySpace page.

Another applicant, a student at the top of his class at Harvard who was fluent in Arabic, was relegated to the "questionable" pile because he was a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that advocates civil liberties. And another rejected candidate said in his essay that he was "personally conflicted" about the National Security Agency's program of wiretapping without warrants.

Lichtblau surely knows more than he's telling Times' readers. Is CAIR just a benign "civil liberties" advocate? Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York didn't think so when he criticized CAIR for some of its prominent members' "intimate links" to the anti-Israel terrorist group Hamas.

The report, prepared jointly by the office of the inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, and the Office of Professional Responsibility, is the first in a series of internal reviews growing out of last year's controversy over the dismissals of nine United States attorneys. The report is the first from an official investigation to support accusations that the Bush Justice Department has been overly politicized.

Can't even make a simple comparison without tilting the balance. The Federalist Society isn't merely "conservative" but "bedrock conservative," a modification the Times rarely if ever uses for liberal groups:

For instance, in 2002, all seven of the honors applicants with membership in the American Constitution Society, a liberal group, were rejected, while 27 of 29 applicants with ties to the Federalist Society, a bedrock conservative group, were accepted.

Lichtblau summarized the other side very briefly:

But in 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft gave his political aides final say over hundreds of applications in response to what some officials believed was a liberal tilt favoring Ivy League schools.

David Frum at National Review Online dug into the Inspector General report for a fuller picture, and has relevant citations from the report:

From page 16:

Christopher Wray, then Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General, said that politics and ideology only arose in the context of the concern of trying to be more inclusive. He said there was a perception that in past administrations the career employees doing the screening may have weeded out candidates because the selecting officials were not "comfortable with their political persuasion." He said the political persuasion he was referring to pertained to candidates who had been in the military or law enforcement, "whether you call that conservative or not."

Is there evidence to support this "perception"? Why yes!

On pp. 20-21, we find the numbers that establish that the DoJ career staff in 2002 nominated twice as many identifiable liberals as identifiable conservatives for the Honors track program: 100 vs. 46.

And on page 27, we read that the DoJ bureaucracy advanced nearly three times as many identifiable liberals as conservatives for summer internships that year, 81 vs. 29.

The Washington Post had the story a day before, but onlyfiled a brief Page 7 item, while the Times, arriving a day late, hailed it on Page One.