21 May 2007

Patriot Act

If you listened to Alaska News Nightly last Thursday, you might have caught the story about Lisa Murkowski seeking action on the issues raised by the recent Amnesty International Report about rape and sexual violence among Alaska Natives.

You might have also heard mention that Murkowski wanted "acting" U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen to be more involved with the Alaska Rural Justice and Law Enforcement Commission. That's the commission started by Ted Stevens to look at life in rural Alaska. It's co-chairs are, I believe, supposed to be the Attorney General of Alaska and the U.S. Attorney for Alaska. Talis Colberg spent quite a few hours towards the end of the legislative session stumping for a piece of legislation proposed by the Commission even though the idea was developed before he became a co-chair but Cohen, apparently, is nowhere to be seen.

Believe it or not, this is an example of the Patriot Act at work. The law allows the president to appoint "acting" U.S. Attorneys (for indefinite periods of time) without having them be subject to Senate confirmation. Traditionally, the president has appointed U.S. Attorneys only with the consent and advice of the senators for that state. You might recall the kerfuffle when Cohen was appointed. Ted Stevens was upset he wasn't consulted and that Bush appointed a non-Alaskan to the job.

Now we see that this particular non-Alaskan - in the words of one senator - is apparently not altogether interested in what happens in the vast landmass of the state outside its cities. And we have the Patriot Act to thank for that... and a presidential administration apparently intent on putting political lackeys into the U.S. Attorney position around the country.

I'm sure Nelson Cohen is a very nice man but wouldn't it be nice if an Alaskan held the job?

No comments: