Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How Deep Will Special Prosecutor's Inquiry Go?

Nora Dannehy, the special prosecutor appointed yesterday to investigate the firings of nine U.S. attorneys, is receiving high marks in the press for her integrity and objectivity.

But will Dannehy be allowed to get to the bottom of the criminal activities that permeate the Bush Justice Department?

In a report from Associated Press, even attorneys who have gone against Dannehy have high praise for her approach to criminal investigations. Dannehy helped convict former Connecticut Governor John Rowland, a Republican, and Rowland's defense attorney calls her "the soul of integrity."

Dannehy went after another Republican, former state treasurer Paul Silvester.

"No one will outwork her. No one is going to be smarter than her," said Mike Clark, a retired FBI agent who investigated former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland. "No one will conduct the investigation with more integrity than her."

Wrote the AP:

Dannehy prosecuted Rowland, a once popular three-term governor, after a wide-ranging investigation into contract steering and bribery in his administration. Rowland spent 10 months in prison.

Rowland had nominated Dannehy's brother, Michael, to the Superior Court in 2000.

Dannehy also was the lead prosecutor in the investigation into a bribery and kickback scheme involving former state Treasurer Paul Silvester. He pleaded guilty to his role in the caper, and his testimony was key to other convictions and pleas from associates.

"She won't let the politics get in her way of conducting an investigation," Clark said. "She doesn't care what political party anyone is or where their power base may be coming from."

Dannehy appears to be a solid choice for special prosecutor. But what about this question: How far will her investigation go?

Problems with the Bush Justice Department go way beyond the nine U.S. attorneys who were fired. Several cases point to corruption by Bush DOJ prosecutors who were not fired, particularly Alice Martin and Leura Canary in the Don Siegelman case in Alabama and Dunn Lampton in the Paul Minor case in Mississippi.

Will Dannehy's inquiry include a serious look at these prosecutors? Could someone else wind up handling that aspect of the investigation? Could this aspect of the case be ignored?

Speaking of Siegelman, news comes today that oral arguments in his appeal are expected to be heard in December before the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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