03/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New York Times ' Editors On DOJ Scandal: 'Americans Deserve A Full Accounting'

By and large, the press has, lamentably, adopted the "let's look forward" approach that the Obama administration seems to want to take on wartime abuses of power. But the New York Times is cutting against that grain in their Sunday editorial on malfeasance at the Bush Justice Department, calling for stepped up efforts in securing the testimony of Karl Rove, and insisting that "Americans deserve a full accounting."

There is no doubt that laws were broken, but the extent of the illegality is not known. It is still not clear who ordered nine United States attorneys fired to advance a partisan agenda. And a whistle-blower has charged that Don Siegelman, the former Alabama governor who was convicted on dubious corruption charges, was railroaded, and that Mr. Rove was behind the prosecution.

Mr. Rove argues that he is protected by executive privilege. Such privilege is narrow. It applies mainly to communications closely tied to the president and must yield when prosecutors have a strong need for information about a possible crime. His claim is particularly weak because many of the communications he would be asked about do not involve the president. There is also evidence that crimes were committed at the highest ranks of government. He is no longer a presidential aide.

The editors send this message to President Barack Obama: "On the campaign trail, Barack Obama was skeptical of sweeping claims of executive privilege. We hope that he will show the same skepticism now that he is in the White House."

Would that the press were not so limited in their zeal.