Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is transforming the ranks of the nation’s top federal prosecutors by firing some and appointing conservative loyalists from the Bush administration’s inner circle who may be unlikely to buck Washington, reports McClatchy Newspapers. The new U.S. Attorneys have impressive legal credentials, but most have few, if any, ties to the communities they’ve been appointed to serve, and some have had little experience as prosecutors.
The nine recent appointees identified by McClatchy Newspapers held high-level White House or Justice Department jobs, and most of them were handpicked by Gonzales under a provision of the Patriot Act that became law in March. Being named a U.S. Attorney “has become a prize for doing the bidding of the White House or administration,” said Laurie Levenson, a former federal prosecutor now a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “In the past, there had been a great deal of delegation to the local offices. Now, you have a consolidation of power in Washington.” A Justice Department spokesman said it was “reckless” to suggest that politics had influenced the appointment process. Gonzales gained the ability to appoint interim U.S. attorneys for indefinite terms as a result of a change to the Patriot Act that stripped federal judges of their appointment power.