Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales broke the law by using politics to guide their hiring decisions for a wide range of important department positions, slowing the hiring process at critical times and damaging the department's credibility and independence, an internal report concluded Monday.
The report, prepared by the Justice Department's inspector general and its internal ethics office, singles out for particular criticism Monica Goodling, a young lawyer from the Republican National Committee who rose quickly through the ranks of the department to become a top aide to Mr. Gonzales.
Ms. Goodling, who testified before Congress in May 2007 at the height of the scandal over the firings of nine United States attorneys, introduced politics into the hiring process in a systematic way that constituted illegal misconduct, the report found.
Last month, the inspector general, Glenn A. Fine, released a separate report that found a similar pattern of politicized hiring at the Justice Department in reviewing applications from young lawyers for the honors and intern programs. The new report released Monday goes much further, however, in documenting pervasive evidence of political hiring for some of the department's most senior career, apolitical positions, including immigration judges and assistant United States attorneys.
The inspector general's investigation found that Ms. Goodling and a handful of other senior aides to Mr. Gonzales developed a system of using in-person interviews and Internet searches to screen out candidates who might be too liberal and to identify candidates seen as pro-Republican and supportive of President Bush.