For the first time since he left office, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that he felt some disappointment in himself for failing to stop the politicized hiring process taking place in the Justice Department’s honors program.
“Obviously everyone is smarter in hindsight. In hindsight you wish you would do some things differently and … I feel disappointment in myself,” Gonzales said, according to a transcript of a recent deposition, as first reported by Tony Mauro of the National Law Journal. “I, the attorney general, am ultimately responsible,” Gonzales says.
Internal Justice Department reports on the honors program and the summer intern program found that officials at DOJ were biased in their selections. In 2002 for example, 100 “liberals” were nominated by various DOJ offices, but 80 percent of them were “deselected” by the screening committee.
Gonzales also goes on to discuss Monica Goodling’s role in politicizing the honors program.
“I do remember distinctly thinking and probably asking: How could the White House liaison not know what kind of questions to ask? I remember thinking: Didn’t anybody at the White House — didn’t anybody at the department tell her she couldn’t ask these questions?” Gonzales said.
As Mauro reports, the depositions came up in a lawsuit filed on behalf of applicants to the honors program who were rejected for political or ideological reasons:
The suit as it now stands is based mainly on the Privacy Act, which bars the government from maintaining records about individuals’ exercise of First Amendment rights unless authorized by law. In September 2009, Bates dismissed other claims of constitutional violations directed at the Justice Department officials personally. The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages for the Privacy Act violations totalling around $250,000, based on the lower salaries they are now earning because they were not hired at Justice.
The Gonzales deposition is embedded below.