As regular readers may have noted, I've got a bit of grudging respect for Richard Hertling, the Acting Assistant Attorney General who seems to have intervened to prevent Fitzgerald from sharing any details of his investigation with Waxman's committee and who has repeatedly prevented Congress from getting details on USA Purge. Compared to the other bozos over at DOJ, Hertling comes off as fairly intelligent and shrewd--though he's definitely every bit as much a political hack as they are.
Courtney Elwood, a former deputy to Dick Cheney's chief counsel David Addington, who is now working for Gonzales, has taken on a bigger role, shutting down responses to most inquiries from Congress and the news media because she views the firings flap as a purely "legal" issue. [my emphasis]
Where to start? Apparently, Ms. Elwood believes she can shut down inquiries from Congress because USA Purge is a "legal" issue. A "legal" issue. Is this the tired "ongoing legal investigation" dodge, recycled from its use with the CIA Leak? Because, last I checked, there was only an internal investigation, no real legal investigation (though how would we know, since Ms. Elwood refuses to respond to Congressional and media inquiries?). And how refreshing to know that one of Addington's flunkies has taken over the response to USA Purge. (Though, for the record, with Cathie Martin back in media at the White House, we've got two of Cheney's former minions dealing with response on this.)
Anyway this detail may explain why Pat Leahy is getting so frustrated with the pace of response.
We are approaching three months since the last hearing, yet you and the Department seem to be repeating the practice of not responding in a timely manner. Instead, if you respond at all, you do so only as a hearing appearance approaches. Although the Committee was informed weeks ago to expect your answers to our questions on a rolling basis, we have yet to receive a single answer. Please ensure that the Committee receives your answers to the oversight questions from the January 18th hearing without further delay.
As I noted in a letter to you last month, the Committee had also not received answers to the questions we had propounded to the FBI Director following his appearance in December. We proceeded with a hearing on March 27th without the benefit of those answers. I had received a letter from his staff indicating that the Director had provided the Department of Justice with his responses to the questions propounded to him following his December appearance. It is now four months since those questions were propounded and we still do not have answers from the Department of Justice.
You would not tolerate this kind of response time in a Justice Department investigation where months go by without answers and when those answers are finally provided they are outdated or superseded by events. That is not conducive to effective oversight.
No doubt Senator Leahy doesn't understand, with him being a real lawyer and all, but he's not going to get a response. Because Courtney Elwood has decided that this "legal" matter supercedes Congress' consitutional duty to exercise oversight.