In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confirmed that the United States Attorney for the District of Nevada, Daniel Bogden, was fired for failing to bring any obscenity cases, although pressured to do so by Brent Ward, head of the Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force.
Under questioning from Sen. Sam Brownback, the administration's main congressional proponent for destruction of the adult industry, Gonzales answered a query about the reasons for Bogden's firing that there were concerns about "the energy in [Bogden's] department in this fast-growing district" and about the lack of any obscenity prosecutions. No other reasons were given for Bogden's firing, and Brownback repeated the "obscenity" justification in his summary at the end of his allotted time for questions.
And since the entire purpose of the Judiciary Committee's investigation is to find out whether eight U.S. Attorneys (USAs) from various districts around the country were fired for "political reasons," it would seem that Gonzales' statement has just made their case for them, since few policies have been more politically charged in the Bush administration than advancing the religious right's obsession with stamping out all forms of sexually explicit expression.
Brownback also asked about the rationale behind the dismissal of Paul Charlton, the U.S. Attorney (USA) for the District of Arizona, and Gonzales alleged two reasons: Charlton's "poor judgment in pushing forward in a death penalty case," and concerns about "his policy of interviewing targets" of federal investigations ï¿½ a reason that Gonzales admits he came up with "after the fact" of Charlton's firing; no mention of obscenity at all.
However, Gonzales' statement hardly comports with Brent Ward's email to Kyle Sampson of Sept. 20, 2006, titled "Obscenity cases," wherein Ward wrote, "We have two U.S. Attorneys who are unwilling to take good cases we have presented to them. They are Paul Charlton in Phoenix (this is urgent) and Dan Bogden in Las Vegas. In light of the AG's [Attorney General's] comments at the NAC to 'kick butt and take names', what do you suggest I do? Do you think at this point that these names should go through channels to reach the AG, or is it enough for me to give the names to you? If you want to act on what I give you, I will be glad to provide a little more context for each of the two situations."
How is it possible that Ward, a senior Justice Department official (and himself the former USA of Utah), could write to Sampson, whom Gonzales testified was the sole person at Justice who put the U.S. Attorneys' names on the list to be fired, that it was "urgent" that Charlton be fired over "obscenity cases," and yet, according to Gonzales' answer to Brownback, Charlton's failure to "take good cases we [Ward's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force] have presented to them" played no part in his firing?
Other questions have also arisen as to how various USAs' names wound up on Sampson's list, and in this regard, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Paula Reed Ward noted an interesting fact yesterday: "House Judiciary Committee members have asked to interview U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, believing that she may have been consulted about preparing the list of eight federal prosecutors who were fired late last year."
AVN.com readers are of course well-familiar with Buchanan's name, since she was responsible for the obscenity indictments of Extreme Associates and its principals, Rob Black and Lizzy Borden, in August of 2003.
What they may not also have known, however, is that during the time period of April, 2003 to about April, 2004, Buchanan was appointed chairperson of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, and was named director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA) from June 2004 to June 2005. Buchanan's membership in the ultraconservative Federalist Society may have played some role in these appointments, but what is even more likely to have helped Buchanan up the chain of command at Justice is the fact that Buchanan had brought the first indictment of a major adult industry producer in over a decade and a half.
Alberto Gonzales succeeded John Ashcroft in February of 2005, and documents provided by the Justice Department have shown that the idea to remove certain USAs was first floated in early 2005.
"According to a Judiciary Committee staffer," wrote Paula Reed Ward, "Ms. Buchanan may have been consulted about what prosecutors she thought should be fired, and about the preparation of the list of those to be fired."
In fact, Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff, reportedly told House Judiciary Committee investigators that he personally had consulted Buchanan regarding which USAs should be terminated, in part because, "EOUSA is an administrative office that is designed to serve as a conduit between main Justice and the field," according to former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman, even though, he added, EOUSA doesn't supervise the USAs, and "it would never be their call to remove a U.S. attorney."
Former USA Fred Thieman, however, had a different opinion: "Since 9/11, my concern is that both entities [EOUSA and the Justice Department itself] have drifted toward controlling the work of U.S. attorneys' offices, rather than being a resource for them."
It would be reasonable to inquire whether either the U.S. Attorneys who were fired, or even the USAs who continue to serve, were aware of the changed role of the EOUSA from being a "conduit" between national Justice and the USA field offices to being a supervisor over those field offices.
Also of interest is the fact that one of Buchanan's underlings at EOUSA was Regent University Law School grad Monica Goodling, who went on to become counsel to Alberto Gonzales himself and his liaison to the White House, and who recently announced that she would plead the Fifth Amendment if called to testify before either the House or Senate Judiciary Committees.
And speaking of the possible religious connection to this whole situation, in mounting a Google search for "Mary Beth Buchanan," we ran across this interesting "Homepage" for one "Mary Beth Buchanan-Broom." AVN.com has been unable, however, to find out whether this page has any connection to the U.S. Attorney of similar name.