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March 3, 2007 - San Diego Union Tribune (CA)

Justice Vs. Politics

Hearing Will Shed Light On Lam's Ouster

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The scene was surreal.

There was Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales at a press conference in San Diego this week, boasting about how federal authorities had arrested dozens of individuals suspected of bringing 18 tons of illegal drugs into the United States.

The suspects are members of the Victor Emilio Cazares-Gastellum drug-trafficking ring, Gonzales said.

The ring made monthly shipments of cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana to distributors, according to officials.

It was a major bust. Just like Gonzales' decision to oust former U.S. Attorney Carol Lam.

Supposedly, one reason Lam was let go is because she didn't prosecute enough drug cases.

How ironic given that Gonzales now unveils a massive drug case in San Diego. Perhaps he should have shared the spotlight with the former U.S. attorney.

Instead, during an interview with a Union-Tribune editorial writer, Gonzales stayed on message in discussing Lam's removal.

"I have an obligation to the people in this district," Gonzales said, "like I do to other districts around the country to ensure that we have the best people we can have in here.

"All I will say is that the decisions that were made about Carol and others were based upon performance, and there are many factors that go into that."

Gonzales must know that his decision was unpopular, especially here in San Diego.

"People may have an honest disagreement about the decision that was made here but it was based on what we thought was best in terms of achieving the highest quality of law enforcement in the district," he said.

We do disagree. And if Gonzales can deliver to San Diego a higher quality prosecutor than the one he now needs to replace, we're anxious to see it.

Meanwhile, next week, Lam will get the chance to share her side of the story when she testifies before Congress after receiving a subpoena to appear before a House subcommittee. And we're anxious to hear that as well.

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