The Next Big Problem at the Justice Department?

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Big stories on the front pages of the NY Times and the Washpost suggest the FBI was, to put it charitably, incredibly sloppy with the extraordinary powers granted it after 9/11 to look into people’s personal records without having to get permission from a judge or a grand jury.

This, of course, comes on top of the scandal over the mass firing of US attorneys. One sign of the growing political momentum of this investigation is the fact that AG Alberto Gonzales made a big reversal yesterday and declared that the Administration is willing to change the law back to what it used to be, and give up the AG’s new power to appoint interim prosecutors. Gonzales’ overreaching with that power, and using it for what increasingly looks like blatant political purposes, is what started this whole controversy.

Gonzales also agreed to let five senior Justice aides be interviewed by the Senate Judiciary Committee without a subpoena. One thing that intrigues the committee is testimony by fired US Atty. Bud Cummins of Arkansas that he had been threated last month by a Justice official when he was on the verge of testifying about the scandal, which at that point was just beginning to catch fire.

All of this suggests that Arlen Specter may have been on to something when he told Gonzales yesterday:

“One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later,”