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Justice Dept. defends editing charge on diversity study

From Terry Frieden
CNN


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Justice Department officials Friday strongly rejected suggestions a consulting firm's report on diversity in the department's attorney workforce was released only in a heavily edited form in order to hide criticisms of diversity efforts.

Career Justice employees made decisions that portions of the report did not have to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act because they represented "predecisional deliberative information" used to develop policy, said Justice Department spokesman Mark Corallo.

Although Attorney General John Ashcroft or Thompson could have overruled the employee decisions and ordered the release of the entire report they chose not to do so, officials said.

The staunch defense of Justice Department diversity efforts by Duffy and other officials came on the heels of a report published in the New York Times Friday that said the redacted -- or blacked out -- portions of the report "portrayed the department's record on diversity as seriously flawed, specifically in the hiring, promotion and retention of minority lawyers."

Senior officials outlined a series of steps already undertaken to strengthen recruiting, hiring, retaining and promoting women and racial and ethnic minorities among the workforce of 9,200 attorneys.

"Senior leadership at the Justice Department has made a real commitment to increasing diversity in its attorney workforce by applying resources in time, manpower, and substantial funding to the effort of diversity," said Stacey Plaskett Duffy, a senior counsel to the deputy attorney general.

Duffy, an African-American, was hired by recently departed Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson -- also an African-American -- to lead the effort to develop and implement diversity initiatives.

"As an African-American and a woman, this is personally important to me and something I felt I had to do," said Duffy, a Republican political appointee.

A computer writer was able to electronically recover the blacked out portions of the report published on the government Web site (usdoj.gov) and placed the entire unedited version on his own Web site (thememoryhole.org).

The information recovered by writer Russ Kirk in Tucson shows that, while the essential statistical data was made public report, the portions edited out included the report's recommendations. Opinions both favorable and critical were also edited out.

Duffy stressed the independent report commissioned by the Justice Department in 2001 was conducted by experts on diversity with the consulting firm of KPMG. It was completed and presented to the Justice Department in June 2002. In February 2003 Ashcroft announced a series of initiatives aimed at strengthening diversity.

Justice Department actions include diversity training for managers, mentoring programs, career development and promotion programs, anonymous exit interviews of departing minority lawyers, and a $300,000 student loan repayment program.

According to The Associated Press, the report showed that the department's attorneys are 38 percent female, compared with 30 percent nationally, and 15 percent minority, compared with 12 percent.

Yet minorities made up only 7 percent of career management-level attorneys and 11 percent of supervisory assistant U.S. attorneys, with women making up 31 percent and 37 percent respectively, the AP reported. Minorities also were more likely to leave the Justice Department than whites.


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