With the onslaught of attacks on civil liberties that has resulted from the so-called “War on Terror,” it’s easy to overlook some of the other damage done to civil liberties and civil rights over the past five years. From the Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is quietly remaking the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, filling the permanent ranks with lawyers who have strong conservative credentials but little experience in civil rights, according to job application materials obtained by the Globe.
The documents show that only 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003, after the administration changed the rules to give political appointees more influence in the hiring process, have civil rights experience. In the two years before the change, 77 percent of those who were hired had civil rights backgrounds.
This and other changes in the division have had devastating effects. Just one example: Under a 1994 law, the Department of Justice the power to investigate and bring suit against any town or city whose police were routinely abusing their authority. Prior to 2000, the Civil Rights Division actively investigated police departments suspected of activities such as racial profiling. (In fact, the first major police reform case they were involved in was the Pittsburgh police department, which the ACLU of PA and the NAACP initiated.)
Under the Bush administration, however, the Civil Rights Division abruptly changed course, dropping many investigation, and in fact, joining with its former adversary the City of Pittsburgh to get the city out of the consent decree that mandated oversight of the police department, over the objections of the ACLU and the NAACP.
So what is the Civil Rights division up to these days, then? According to the same article, “The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.”
Sara in Philly