- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 8, 2009

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Thursday that during his time in office the Justice Department found new ways to improve national security while protecting civil rights and liberties, helped ensure November’s elections went smoothly and changed practices to end the politicized hiring that had become a symbol of the department’s dysfunction under his predecessors.

“Those are just a few of the matters we have dealt with in the last 14 months,” Mr. Mukasey told Justice Department employees during his farewell ceremony. “It would take all of my remaining days in office to list the accomplishments and successes you have achieved during that time.”

Among the accomplishments Mr. Mukasey cited was updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so that it covers newer methods of communication and plugs other intelligence gaps. He also noted the new guidelines put in place to direct the FBI’s domestic investigations.

But Mr. Mukasey also noted some of the troubling revelations that indicated an uncomfortable closeness between the Bush Administration and the department, such as an internal report that concluded Bush appointees used political considerations when hiring for the prestigious honors and summer-law-intern programs.

Mr. Mukasey said the department instituted rules during his tenure that limited contact between the department and the White House regarding ongoing cases. He said he also put career staff, instead of political appointees, in charge of hiring for the honors and intern programs.

“As a result of these reforms, I am confident that the department is thriving today and that the institutional problems we identified will not recur,” he said. “As a result of these reforms, distracting outside criticism has waned, and attention has returned to where it should be: to the valuable and skillful work that all of you are doing, and have always done.”

Mr. Mukasey showed some self-effacing humor during the speech, joking that some employees attended merely to see if “the attorney general can get through a speech and remain vertical.” Mr. Mukasey collapsed while giving a speech in November. He was rushed to the hospital, though it turned out he had simply fainted.

“In a few days, new leadership will take charge of the department. Some of their policies and priorities may differ from my own and from those of the administration in which I’ve served,” Mr. Mukasey told employees. “That is entirely natural and in the normal course. We have administrations in this country, not regimes. Regardless of what differences of policy one administration may have from another, you help assure that they administer a system of making policy choices within the law.”

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