World and Nation

Criticism of Ex-Official in Hiring at Justice Department

A former senior official at the Justice Department routinely hired Republicans, Federalist Society members and “RTA’s” — “Right-Thinking Americans” — for what were supposed to be nonpolitical posts and gave them plum assignments on civil rights cases, an internal department report released Tuesday found.

The former official, Bradley Schlozman, who helped lead the Civil Rights Division for about three years beginning in 2003, also gave false statements to Congress when he denied factoring politics into his hiring decisions, the report from the inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department found.

But last week federal prosecutors declined to bring criminal charges against Schlozman, who left the department in 2007 amid an uproar over accusations of widespread politicization.

In the Civil Rights Division, regarded as a cornerstone of the Justice Department since the days of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, the investigation found that political supervisors charged with enforcing federal bias laws had illegally discriminated against job applicants seen as too liberal. The report said Schlozman’s superiors had ignored warnings about his brash management style and his political agenda.

A lawyer for Schlozman, William Jordan, called the report “inaccurate, incomplete, biased, unsupported by the law and contrary to the facts,” and said that “the so-called investigation was a Star Chamber-type inquiry from the start.”

The investigation grew out of the controversy in 2007 over the dismissals of at least eight U.S. attorneys, which led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and spurred accusations that the Bush administration had allowed political ideology to trump law enforcement decisions.

The report goes beyond the conclusions of three previous internal Justice Department inquiries in exposing the depths of political interference with personnel decisions. The conclusions of the latest inquiry, the first to focus on the Civil Rights Division, are likely to figure in the Senate hearing Thursday for Eric H. Holder Jr.’s confirmation as attorney general.

The report makes its case against Schlozman in his own words, drawn from e-mail and voice mail messages to colleagues and underlings.