The Bush administration's Department of Justice seems to have lost track of one of the key policies of law enforcement agencies in the United States - observance of the rule of law. That capacity is one of several indicators of effective human rights observance that the U.S. Department of State applies to other nations when they publish their annual Country Reports on Human Rights. But we seem to have conveniently forgotten to apply that same standard to ourselves.
In recent months - and years - the prevalance of instances where our Justice Department has failed to live up to traditional rule of law standards has reversed dramatically. The firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys for not pursuing political agendas pressed by the Bush White House is only the latest example. Before that, we saw the politically dictated compromise in the prosecution of Big Tobacco.
The inescapable conclusion is that the Justice Department, under the Bush administration, has become politically compromised, no longer making law enforcement decisions for reasons of justice and accountability, but rather for politically-motivated dictates.
The Justice Department, also, was intimately involved in a lot of rule of law violations associated with trying to fight terrorism. Justice issued legal memos supporting the use of torture, justifying the policy of rendition to torture and the use of secret prisons, and suggesting that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to alleged terrorists. It also urged Congress to elminate habeas corpus for detainees in order to get rid of the numerous lawsuits that had been filed, some of which resulted in Supreme Court decisions in which the administration was rebuked for its policies.
How can we credibly and effectively encourage other nations to observe and respect the rule of law if we do not do so ourselves? If our government is serious about making observance of the rule of law a key indicator of whether the principles of democracy and human rights are being carried out, we have to serve as a better model of how this is to be done.