[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official website; JURIST news archive] announced [prepared statement, PDF; press release] to the House Judiciary Committee [official website] Wednesday that during his remaining time in office he will focus primarily on addressing the legal rights of US-held enemy combatants and ensuring that voting rights [JURIST news archives] laws are adhered to in upcoming elections. He also told the Committee that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is working to address concerns that its employment decisions have been politically influenced [JURIST news archive] in recent years. Reiterating his belief [statement; JURIST report] that it is inappropriate for the judicial branch to outline the process for trying terrorism suspects, Mukasey said:
Congress and the Executive Branch are in a better position than the courts to create practical procedures and rules to govern the habeas corpus hearings required by the Supreme Court, procedures and rules that would both give the detainees what process they are due and accommodate the grave national security concerns involved. In my speech earlier this week, I outlined six principles that should guide such legislation, and I look forward to working with you and your colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both houses of Congress to address these important issues promptly.Mukasey informed the Committee of his plans to monitor the legality [Voting Rights Act backgrounder] of the upcoming presidential elections:
The Department will maintain a significant presence throughout the election season through both outreach and monitoring. We will work closely with civil rights groups and state and local elections officials to identify and solve problems. We will publicize telephone numbers and websites through which people can bring potential issues to our attention. And, on Election Day, we will deploy hundreds of observers and monitors around the country.Mukasey also defended the Bush administration's invocation of executive privilege [JURIST report] in refusing to produce documents related to the Valerie Plame CIA leak investigation. UPI has more.
These steps will supplement our ongoing efforts both to enforce laws, including the Voting Rights Act, designed to guarantee access of all Americans to the ballot and to enforce laws, including those prohibiting voter fraud and campaign finance abuse, intended to safeguard the integrity of the voting process. All these efforts are essential in ensuring that elections reflect the will of the people, and in maintaining the confidence of all Americans in our system of government.
The issues Mukasey discussed in his statement have garnered a great deal of media attention in recent weeks. In June, the Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that federal courts have jurisdiction to review habeas corpus petitions filed by Guantanamo Bay detainees, and that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST news archive] did not limit detainees' right to federal judicial review. Also that month, political bias in DOJ hiring practices was made public in a report [PDF text; JURIST report] by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General [official website], a revelation which has already resulted in a lawsuit and ethics complaints [JURIST reports] against the department.