Don’t lean on me

Mother Jones
by Leigh Ferrara

03/06/07

Last spring, an amendment was slipped into a bill reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act by Senator Arlen Specter’s chief counsel, Michael O’Neill, who was reportedly acting on the Justice Department’s behalf. The little-noticed but controversial provision allowed the Attorney General to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys for an indefinite period of time, eliminating the 120 day limit that had been in effect for more than 20 years. Today, as the Senate Judiciary Committee convened to examine the abrupt firings of eight federal prosecutors, this amendment took center stage and Specter, the committee’s ranking Republican, certainly seemed a bit uncomfortable. After all, the language inserted by his office allows administration loyalists to be installed as U.S. Attorneys for the remainder of the president’s term without receiving Senate confirmation. Once in place, they can potentially wield their prosecutorial power for political ends. Now, Specter is among a group of lawmakers who are seeking to rollback this provision...

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Informant: Thomas L. Knapp



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