- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

Judicial nominees have waited long enough, senator

The Nov. 26 letter to the editor from Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, "Judicial confirmations going faster than ever," compels a more complete and factual account of the current state of the judicial confirmation process.
Mr. Leahy seeks to rebut growing criticism that his Judiciary Committee is blocking qualified judicial nominees selected by President Bush. The criticism is warranted, and the issue is of extreme importance. The Senate's inexcusable inaction on dozens of qualified judicial nominees threatens to further clog already overburdened courtrooms, delay justice for millions of Americans and, even more alarming, make it harder for federal law enforcement officials to get judicial assistance in their efforts to track and monitor suspected terrorists and other criminals.
In his letter to this paper, Mr. Leahy tries to use statistics and numbers to create the illusion that his committee is moving at a pace "faster" than the last two administrations on Senate judiciary nominees, but his arguments are misleading.
In fact, the first Bush administration saw 15 of its 24 first-year nominees confirmed by the Senate a 62 percent confirmation rate. Similarly, in his first year, President Clinton had 27 of his 47 nominees confirmed a 57 percent rate.
Today, with the Senate nearing completion of its business for the year, the president has had just 18 of his 64 nominees confirmed by the Senate or just 28 percent.
Mr. Leahy seeks to justify his inaction on the grounds that some nominees have only recently been ready for Senate action. That is no excuse for not acting on all of those candidates nominated before August. As to those pre-August nominees, the Senate's performance has been downright disgraceful, particularly when comparing the president's nominees to those of his last three predecessors. With only one exception, 100 percent of the pre-August nominees of Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton were confirmed in their first year of office. By contrast, the Senate has managed to confirm an anemic 40 percent of George W. Bush's pre-August nominees, with the Senate only a couple of weeks away from its recess.
Mr. Leahy was not nearly so patient when the nominees were liberal Democrats and the Senate was under Republican control. At that time, Mr. Leahy urged us to redouble our efforts to fill "an alarming vacancy rate" on the federal courts nearly 70 seats. Today the vacancies exceed 100.
Again, when Republicans controlled the Senate, Mr. Leahy remarked that "every week in which the Senate does not confirm three judges is a week in which the Senate is failing to address the vacancy crisis." Yet at the current confirmation pace controlled by Mr. Leahy, this Senate has confirmed an average of only three judges a month. The Judiciary Committee is moving at a tortoise's pace, especially regarding circuit court nominees: Just five have been confirmed all year. (Judicial nominees are not the only ones suffering from these dilatory tactics; to date, the president's entire Cabinet is still not in place because the Senate has yet to confirm John Walters as the national drug czar.)
The fact that many nominees have not been confirmed is not an accident. Liberal Democrats simply don't want judges with whom they disagree seated on the federal courts. There is no other explanation for the Judiciary Committee's failure to hold a hearing on more than two-thirds of the first 11 persons nominated by the president back in early May. The Judiciary Committee stalls, even though the American Bar Association has rated a number of the nominees "well-qualified" to serve on the federal bench.
In his letter to this paper, Mr. Leahy wrote that he and his committee are striving for "bipartisanship." In Washington, this term is wielded more often than it is applied. How can it be bipartisan for the majority to refuse even to hold hearings on qualified candidates nominated by the president in early May? It only takes a couple of hours for each half-dozen nominees, yet six months have elapsed with no action. How can it be bipartisan to allow more than 100 vacancies to exist, scores of which need to be urgently filled?
The president deserves better and so does the country.

Judiciary Committee
U.S. Senate

Editorial paints peaceful Greece as country of routine violence

From its headline to its last sentence urging a change of venue for the 2004 Olympics, your Nov. 25 editorial "A reign of terror in Greece" is so malicious that one is compelled to question your motivation. Reading it, one wonders whether it is targeting an enemy of the United States rather than an ally that has been standing alongside the United States in the fight against international terrorism and closely cooperating for the eradication of domestic terrorism.
Those in the U.S. government and the 12 million tourists who safely visit Greece every year certainly will disagree with your portrayal of the country, one of the safest democracies in Europe, as a haven for terrorists who kill at random in the streets of Athens or bomb foreign embassies.
Though reprehensible, it is amazing that a victimless explosion outside a building that houses a suburban American Express office, no doubt the work of a misguided individual, would suddenly provoke a rehash of all the hyperbolic accusations made by a small number of former U.S. officials. These individuals have never responded to repeated invitations to produce evidence of their damaging claims, and their recommendations have been rejected repeatedly by the Bush administration and Congress.
It also is astonishing that your editorial states that the "assassination of Americans and attacks on American property have become routine." Most of the 21 victims since 1975 have been Greeks, but four have been U.S. officials, whose families' grief we share. However, this tragic and unacceptable loss of human life is far from a "routine" occurrence in Greece.
So, far from "granting terrorists immunity," as you suggest, the Greek government, with the full cooperation of the FBI (which has operated an office in Athens for the past 10 years), British and other European law enforcement agencies, has made diligent efforts to track down and bring to justice those responsible for these attacks. As you correctly say, those efforts have not succeeded so far. However, this is not for lack of effort or political will. Indeed, two suspected terrorists were killed in a confrontation with police, and others have been investigated and arrested. In a democratic country, however, credible and strong evidence is needed to convict in a court of law. Unlike organized and identifiable terror groups in other countries, Greece's November 17 criminals are a small, elusive, clandestine group, which acts sporadically against specific targets and is extremely difficult to penetrate. They are like the Unabomber, who evaded capture in the United States for more than 18 years, or the perpetrator of the bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, who remains at large five years later.
Greece's commitment to tackling the problem is recognized in the latest terrorism report by the U.S. State Department, in April, which stated that the "Greek government has undertaken some meaningful steps to combat terrorism." This is conveniently ignored in your editorial, as are expressions of appreciation by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and other U.S. officials for the military and other facilities that Greece has provided to the United States in its anti-terrorism campaign.
Today, more than ever, fighting terrorism is one of the highest priorities of the Greek government and, more than ever, Greeks feel the urgency and clearly see the dangers of this scourge.
In its stepped-up anti-terror program, the Greek government last summer passed legislation that streamlines the judicial process in terrorist trials, provides for DNA testing, conveys broader police surveillance powers and establishes a witness protection program. A reward of more than $4 million has been offered for information, using confidential hot lines, leading to the apprehension of terrorists. With good police work, international cooperation and the support of the public, we hope the desired results will come soon. Authorities will not rest until the terrorists are behind bars.
This effort has been intensified in view of the approaching 2004 Olympic Games. A comprehensive security plan costing more than $600 million has been approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is upgraded constantly. It provides for thousands of special security units, surveillance cameras and border guards to prevent problems, whether from a domestic or foreign source. An international advisory group also has been formed, with security experts from the United States, Israel, Britain, Germany, Australia, Spain and France, offering their expertise to the Greek authorities. Greek police officers observed the security measures of the Sydney Olympics and are already in Salt Lake City for the Winter Olympic Games.
In addition to the approval of the IOC itself, senior officials of the United States including President Bush and Mr. Powell have looked forward to the successful and trouble-free Olympics in the land of their ancient birth. The U.S. ambassador to Greece, Thomas Miller, responded to the points raised by your editorial in a TV interview in Athens Monday. He spoke of the "excellent cooperation" between Greece and the United States in confronting the terrorist threat and assured his audience that he feels perfectly safe in Athens, where, he added, both he and his wife were glad to be assigned for the third time.

Press counselor
Embassy of Greece

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