From the Washington Times:Readers may recall the political firestorm which descended on President Bush when he fired three U.S. Attorneys. Will there be a similar firestorm for the direct political interference in this case to protect voting rights of people who might not vote for Obama?
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
The incident - which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube - had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.
People directly familiar with the case, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution, said career lawyers in two separate Justice offices had recommended proceeding to default judgment before political superiors overruled them.
Tensions between career lawyers and political appointees inside the Justice Department have been a sensitive matter since allegations surfaced during the Bush administration that higher-ups had ignored or reversed staff lawyers and that some U.S. attorneys had been removed or selected for political reasons.
The complaint said the three men engaged in "coercion, threats and intimidation, ... racial threats and insults, ... menacing and intimidating gestures, ... and movements directed at individuals who were present to vote." It said that unless prohibited by court sanctions, they would "continued to violate ... the Voting Rights Act by continuing to direct intimidation, threats and coercion at voters and potential voters, by again deploying uniformed and armed members at the entrance to polling locations in future elections, both in Philadelphia and throughout the country."
To support its evidence, the government had secured an affidavit from Bartle Bull, a longtime civil rights activist and former aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. Mr. Bull said in a sworn statement dated April 7 that he was serving in November as a credentialed poll watcher in Philadelphia when he saw the three uniformed Panthers confront and intimidate voters with a nightstick.
Inexplicably, the government did not enter the affidavit in the court case, according to the files.
"In my opinion, the men created an intimidating presence at the entrance to a poll," he declared. "In all my experience in politics, in civil rights litigation and in my efforts in the 1960s to secure the right to vote in Mississippi ... I have never encountered or heard of another instance in the United States where armed and uniformed men blocked the entrance to a polling location."
Mr. Bull said the "clear purpose" of what the Panthers were doing was to "intimidate voters with whom they did not agree." He also said he overheard one of the men tell a white poll watcher: "You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker."
He called their conduct an "outrageous affront to American democracy and the rights of voters to participate in an election without fear." He said it was a "racially motivated effort to limit both poll watchers aiding voters, as well as voters with whom the men did not agree."
Don't hold your breath!