Blackout at the Department of Justice

November 10, 2003|By Derrick Z. Jackson

BOSTON - President Bush blames the media for filtering out good news on Iraq. He says he does not even read newspapers.

"The best way to get the news is from objective sources," Bush said in a Fox News interview. "And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."

This is the same president who erases history itself.

Mr. Bush's desire for us to become ostriches over the deaths and wounding of American soldiers in Iraq is but one more pathological act in sticking all of America's heads into the sand. Mr. Bush severely limited access to the presidential papers of his father. Vice President Dick Cheney erected an iron curtain around his energy task force. Hundreds of Muslim immigrants were detained without due process and with no evidence they were involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The administration wiped out parts of an Environmental Protection Agency report that specifically tied human activities to global warming.

Mr. Bush has his eraser out again. The Justice Department recently released a commissioned report on diversity among its attorneys. Half of its 186 pages were blacked out.

The Justice Department's attorney work force is 15 percent minority and 38 percent female, compared with 12 percent and 30 percent, respectively, in the national legal labor pool.

The blacked-out pages betray a Justice Department that does not want America to know what happens after people are hired. The full report is available on the Web site, which electronically lifted the blacked-out sections. According to the site, these are some of the conclusions of the full report:

"When controlling for component, grade and salary, we found that the average minority is currently residing approximately one-third step lower than the average white and the average woman is currently residing approximately one-half step lower than the average man. These effects are statistically significant."

"Race and gender combine for a particularly strong negative effect of identity for minority women."

"Section chiefs are an extremely critical element of the department's diversity climate. They have significant authority in recruitment, hiring, promotion, performance appraisal, case assignment and career development. The section chief work force is not diverse, and turnover is low. This pattern, combined with the generally low attention that these managers pay to staff career development, leads minorities to perceive a lack of advancement opportunities."

The sections on "stereotyping," "racial and gender tension," "harassment behavior" and "mentoring" were completely blacked out.

Asked whether employees felt free to "express differences that may be due to different cultural backgrounds," 83 percent of white men and 73 percent of white women said yes. Only 56 percent of minority men and 42 percent of minority women said yes.

Deleted was this statement: "More than 40 percent of racial minorities participating in the study believe that stereotyping of minorities having limited abilities is a problem. Further analysis shows that an actual majority (51 percent) of nonwhite women hold this belief. Although we do not know the extent to which this belief is based on actual differential treatment of people, it clearly represents a barrier to the goal of creating an environment where all members feel equally valued and able to contribute."

A further analysis provides an even more deeper divide. While only 13 percent of white attorneys at the Justice Department say minorities are stereotyped, 60 percent of black lawyers say minority attorneys "are often stereotyped here."

Deleted was a paragraph that said about 20 percent of minority lawyers say they have personally experienced racial harassment at the department. Deleted was the fact that only 53 percent of minority attorneys believed the promotion process was fair with respect to color, compared with 87 percent of white attorneys. Deleted was the fact that 60 percent of women believed the promotion process was fair with regard to gender, compared with 81 percent of men.

Deleted was the fact that only 45 percent of minority attorneys, compared with 74 percent of white lawyers, "feel that assignments I receive, and management decisions about my career development, have been made without regard to my race/gender/ ethnic origin."

With all these deletions, it was no surprise that all nine pages of "recommendations" were blacked out. Hear no problem, see no problem, solve no problem. Mr. Bush blames the media, when he is bringing back memories of Nixon erasing tapes. The administration deleted the data on global warming. It blacked out diversity reports. It disappears immigrants.

With a war built on falsehoods failing with fatal consequences, Mr. Bush now wants to disappear the media. It is all part of Mr. Bush erasing you.

Derrick Z. Jackson is a columnist for The Boston Globe.

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