Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
It's funny.  Laugh. Government Politics

The Ridiculous LexisNexis Search that the Justice Department Used 589

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the your-government-ruining-america dept.
jamie writes "The politicization of Bush's Justice Department, which this week was officially determined to be illegal, has a funny side too. Sometime in 2005-2006, White House Liaison Jan Williams attended a seminar on LexisNexis searches, and wrote one herself. When she left, she passed it on to her successor Monica Goodling in an email. Justin Mason, author of SpamAssassin, is skeptical about its accuracy:

[First name of a candidate]! and pre/2 [last name of a candidate] w/7 bush or gore or republican! or democrat! or charg! or accus! or criticiz! or blam! or defend! or iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt! or layoff! or downsiz! or PNTR or NAFTA or outsourc! or indict! or enron or kerry or iraq or wmd! or arrest! or intox! or fired or sex! or racis! or intox! or slur! or arrest! or fired or controvers! or abortion! or gay! or homosexual! or gun! or firearm!

Needless to say, when asked about it, Williams first said she didn't remember ever seeing it, then said she'd used an edited version just once. LexisNexis records show she used it, as shown, 25 times." Note that 'sex!' appears twice in the query. Must be VERY important.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Ridiculous LexisNexis Search that the Justice Department Used

Comments Filter:
  • by Carthag (643047) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:07AM (#24402157) Homepage

    what the hell

    • by Oh no, it's Dixie (1332795) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:10AM (#24402231)
      Spotted Owl Party members are among the most dangerous people to have in the DOJ. If allowed into the DOJ, they will do everything in their power to preserve the environment and wellbeing of this bird, no matter what the financial or human cost.
    • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:10AM (#24402233) Homepage Journal
      George Bush criticiz nafta for spotted owl gay sex with firearms
    • by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:16AM (#24402353)
      Can't be too careful. What if there was an article in the Times about Iran using aborted, homosexual, spotted owls to smuggle WMD in a plot to cover up Enron? You'd look silly if you weren't "in the know"
    • Re:spotted owl? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:31AM (#24402621) Journal

      It's a hippy litmus test. The Owl thing was something they used to pin on Gore, so if someone shows up in a newspaper article, with a mention of a "spotted owl" then there is some hippy crap going down.

      Or, of course, the person could be using the term themselves to paint someone else as a hippy.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dirkbaztard (1297993)
        Of course they may have been using Spotted Owls to judge your response to see if you were a replicant.
    • by eln (21727) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:35AM (#24402693) Homepage

      Not really surprising. Spotted owls are notoriously poor prosecutors. They also have a well-known bias against rats and other vermin, making them unsuitable for political work.

    • Re:spotted owl? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sirch (82595) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:37AM (#24402743) Homepage

      I think this link might explain it - I guess it was a little sensitive to the government: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/02/AR2007100202031.html [washingtonpost.com]

    • by Tackhead (54550) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:39AM (#24402771)

      what the hell

      It's a Shibboleth [wikipedia.org]. Something that you can use to guess at another person's social/regional/political origin.

      Back in 1992 [nytimes.com], there was a plan to log some forest. Republicans liked the idea of logging. Democrats didn't like the idea of logging.

      Democrats went with environmentalism -- the notion that a risk to 50 of the 500-odd remaining spotted owls in existence outweighed the commercial interests of the loggers -- as their means of obsctructing the Republicans' goals.

      Republicans went with the commercial argument -- "preposterous to forego millions of dollars in revenue over 50 spotted owls!" -- as their means of embarassing the Democrats.

      The spotted owl became a shibboleth. Anyone who said "save the endangered owls!" was likely to be a Democrat, and anyone who said "to hell with the owls!" was a Democrat.

      Many of the things in that list are shibboleths from the Clinton era. If you followed events such as Iran-Contra (a scandal embarassing to the Republicans), the spotted owl (a shibboleth for environmentalism), the recounts in Florida (which could have only benefited the Democrats), or worked (or ruled) on cases involving other politically-loaded wedge issues -- whether economic ones like NAFTA, outsourcing, and Enron, or sociolopolitical ones like racism, sexism, abortion, homosexuality, and gun ownership -- you had political opinions.

      This query wasn't designed to figure out what those opinions were, but it would be a very clear way listing all the times someone identified their political stance by using a political shibboleth within seven words of the name of either Presidential candidate:

      "John Doe accused Al Gore of placing the interests of the spotted owl above the legitimate interests of the taxpayers" -> John Doe is almost certainly a Republican.

      "Jane Doe suggested Al Gore wasn't doing enough to protect the spotted owl" -> Jane Doe is almost certainly a Democrat.

      The spotted owl is a particularly effective shibboleth; most of us have opinions about gun ownership, NAFTA, or Enron that don't necessarily dermine how we vote. But the spotted owl was a manufactured controversy; outside of birdwatchers, very few people knew or cared about the spotted owl until it became the center of a political debate.

      Modern-day shibboleths include "homicide bombers" or "the Democrat party" (phrases used only Republicans), or "big business / big health care / big pharma" or "multinational corporations", or "neocons" (which are phrases used almost exclusively by Democrats.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by negRo_slim (636783)
        As someone who grew up in and amongst the debate surrounding the spotted owl [wikipedia.org] it would seem you gloss over the very real impact the issue had on thousands of people. It was more then a mere political litmus test, it was a divisive issue that in some areas really made one weigh the benefits and trade offs of economic development.
      • by Justin Hopewell (1260242) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:07PM (#24403321)
        Thanks for the info, learn something new every day. : ) However, I have to disagree with you when you say "neocons" are used almost exclusively by Democrats. "Neocon" is a pretty widely used term by Libertarians and Independents who are wary of ultra-conservatives.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It's usually mislabeled as well. I've seen it used WAY too many times with people who aren't neocons (like Bush). Of course, it's also one of those words which definition is in the mind of the beholder.
          • by halivar (535827) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <reglefb>> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:30PM (#24403737) Homepage

            The problem is that most people can't even come to a single definition of "conservative." So what the heck is a "neo-conservative" supposed to be?

            Wikipedia has a pretty good running definition for neo-con, though. Essentially, social conservatism with a big government twist (which essentially fits every Republican president since Ford, and is most exemplified by GWB). So-called "paleo-cons" (usually with libertarian leanings) are exactly the opposite.

          • by FishWithAHammer (957772) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @01:57PM (#24405439)

            No, Bush most definitely is a neoconservative (socially conservative, pro-foreign-involvement, and big-government). Barry Goldwater was a paleoconservative (and so am I). Bush? Neocon all the way.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:22PM (#24403575)

          Don't want to blow my moderation..

          I don't consider neocons to be ultra conservative.

          They spend money like drunken sailors, the support the expansion of the federal government, they ignore the constitution.

          OTH, they are pro military, pro corporation, and use religion as a glue to get enough votes to advance their position. I.e. Neocons are very close to facists / corporatists.

          I'm not saying that in a half naked hippy screaming "fascist!" kind of way at law abiding cops doing their jobs. I'm looking at the neocons actions- comparing them to historical factions and concluding that the closest match I find is fascists.

      • by PontifexPrimus (576159) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:11PM (#24403405)

        The spotted owl became a shibboleth. Anyone who said "save the endangered owls!" was likely to be a Democrat, and anyone who said "to hell with the owls!" was a Democrat.

        Trying to have it both ways, eh? Tricky, those Democrats...

    • by Frizzle Fry (149026) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:57AM (#24403117) Homepage

      ya rly

  • by InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:08AM (#24402171)
    "Sex, sex, sex, that's all they think about!"
  • by rsmith-mac (639075) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:12AM (#24402287)

    For those of you wondering what that query is about and what it's being used for, here's TFA:

    Via b1ff.org, here's the Nexis search that US Department of Justice White House liaisons ran on job candidates to determine their political leanings:[Emphasis mine]

    So there you go. The Justice Department was using a screwy LexisNexis query to try to determine the political leanings and affiliations of people they were looking to hire, because they were illegally filtering out applications people (non-repubs/conservatives) based on their political affiliations.

    You really should drink more coffee in the morning before you start posting, Taco.

    • Dropping Monica Goodling into that query returns 653 results in the last 2 years.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:39AM (#24402763)

      illegally filtering out applications people (non-repubs/conservatives) based on their political affiliations.

      Reading some other articles about this, it appears that was not the full extent. They were even excluding Republicans and conservatives that weren't Republican or conservative enough for them. Basically people that they thought would not make loyal "Bushies".

      It also appears that experience was not as highly evaluated as political considerations. One cited example of the was a well regarded senior prosecutor with counterterrorism experience was passed over for a junior attorney with no experience for a counterterrorism post just because the senior prosecutor's wife was a Democrat.

    • by demachina (71715) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:00PM (#24403173)

      To further illuminate what Goodling was doing, she told this to a U.S. Attorney telling him he could hire another prosecutor for his office:

      "Tell Brad he can hire one more good American."

      "good American" is Goodling and probably Bush administration code for conservative, Christian, homophobe, pro life, Bush supporting, Republican. The implication being all other American's are "bad" Americans. How does it feel to live in a country where your Executive Branch has branded you as a "bad" American unless you live and think the way they expect you to live and think.

      It is an entirely acceptable standard for political appointees who will come and go with the President who appoints them. It is expected for them to be ideologues in the same mold as their boss. It is an illegal and unacceptable criteria for career civil servants who, once they enter the ranks of civil service, are nearly impossible to get rid of unless they leave of their on accord.

      The report unfortunately stops short of finding who directed Goodling to do this, but since she was the DOJ liason to the White House chances are it was Rove, Myers, Cheney and or Bush, who were probably directing Goodling to fill the Justice Department ranks with career civil servants, who need not be well qualified for their jobs, but who were certified ideologues who would carry the right wing flag for decades to come and slant prosecutions and the law in the direction their ideology dictated.

      The DOJ has received all the attention but there is an open question if the same program was being practiced in some or all of the other departments and agencies under control of the Executive Branch. If it was there may be an army of entrenched Republican ideologue civil servants who will frustrate future President they don't agree with for decades to come.

  • by rilian4 (591569) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:18AM (#24402391) Journal
    Why shouldn't an administration be able to hire people on their side of the political fence? Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me with a straight face that President Clinton's administration didn't weed out conservatives from executive branch jobs? I can understand certain things such as race or gender being illegal to use as hiring factors but I would assume that a given administration would not want to hire attorneys who hate everything that administration stands for, whether the administration is conservative, liberal or anything in between.
    • by Oh no, it's Dixie (1332795) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:21AM (#24402459)
      This is the Department of Justice. It's supposed to be a neutral, non-partisan organization. Any overt partisan involvement should be a cause for alarm.
    • by jamie (78724) * Works for Slashdot <jamie@slashdot.org> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:23AM (#24402487) Journal

      Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me with a straight face that President Clinton's administration didn't weed out conservatives from executive branch jobs?

      Yes, of course -- since it is illegal to take political views into consideration for certain kinds of career non-political jobs. Federal law is very clear on this. Read the PDF linked in the story for more information.

    • by jeffasselin (566598) <cormacolinde@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:24AM (#24402515) Journal

      First and foremost, because it's illegal.

      But there are two types of nominations in the DoJ: "Career" & "Political". Political appointments are indeed open to scrutiny of political affiliation, but are temporary and remain active only until a change of administration. Career posts are normal jobs, and those people are supposed to be more neutral. Filtering people for Career jobs based on political affiliations is illegal. The issue coming to light now is that Bush administration officials used the same questionnaires and methods for both types of posts.

    • by mapsjanhere (1130359) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:27AM (#24402561)
      In the civil service, there is a clear line between "professionals" and "political appointees". The idea being, while the head of the justice department, and probably most of his deputies, change every administration, the people who actually understand the inner workings stay on.
      If the search is used to vest someone's political position for a "political appointee" position, that's fine. If it's used the screen "technical/professional" candidates it's probably a violation of civil service provisions and most likely some statutes.
    • Because It's Illegal (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EgoWumpus (638704) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:29AM (#24402581)

      There are certain high level posts in the various executive branch agencies that are tagged 'political appointments'. These jobs, which steer those agencies, can be determined based on politics.

      For everything else, such discrimination is illegal. It is assumed, by the law, that people are professional enough to do their job regardless of who is in charge - and anyway, they can be fired if they intentionally sabotage the agency without legal cause.

      Only recently, since the Neocons took over, has it even been an issue that 'attorneys hate' the people they work for. I mean, really, is such harsh language remotely accurate? Or is it being used as a boogie man in order to make an end-run around very wise laws; laws that prevent the government from swinging to extremes with every change in the administration.

      (And lets not even bring up the fiscal nightmare it must be if agencies have to rehire everyone every eight years...)

      Now, with my straight face: Clinton did NOT weed out conservatives from executive branch jobs. He in fact explicitly hired many people across the aisle, for better or for worse. The idea that you never hire people who disagree with you is one that has only seen it's heyday in the last eight years. It's actually often a very good idea.

    • by Vellmont (569020) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:33AM (#24402653)


      Why shouldn't an administration be able to hire people on their side of the political fence?

      Because it's illegal to do so for these types of Justice department jobs (and rightly so).

      Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me with a straight face that President Clinton's administration didn't weed out conservatives from executive branch jobs?

      For prosecutors in the justice department? I'll tell you that with a very straight face unless you can show otherwise. Everything I've read says this just doesn't happen for these kinds of appointees. The fired prosecutors were shocked to be fired for political reasons.

      but I would assume that a given administration would not want to hire attorneys who hate everything that administration stands for, whether the administration is conservative, liberal or anything in between.

      I find that a very strange attitude. Criminal prosecutions (which is what the Justice department does) shouldn't have a political slant to it. I'd hope you'd agree that that would be a horrible horrible thing no matter who was doing it. There's a reason why the image representing justice (the one holding the scales) is blindfolded.

  • by Foolicious (895952) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:19AM (#24402419)

    Wikipedia:

    "LexisNexis (sometimes simply called "Lexis" or "Nexis" among users) is a popular searchable archive of content from newspapers, magazines, legal documents and other printed sources. LexisNexis claims to be the "worldâ(TM)s largest collection of public records, unpublished opinions, forms, legal, news, and business information" while offering their products to a wide range of professionals in the legal, risk management, corporate, government, law enforcement, accounting and academic markets."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LexisNexis [wikipedia.org]

    They used Lexis to do a form of background search on people. They used the information from these searches to decide who to hire. The DOJ said the way they did this is federally illegal and also against DOJ policy.

    And if you're an actual RTFAer, here you go: http://www.usdoj.gov/opr/goodling072408.pdf [usdoj.gov]

  • Rules (Score:5, Informative)

    by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:26AM (#24402537) Journal
    I found this here [lexisnexis.com]:

    Connector Order and Priority

    Connectors operate in the following order of priority:

    1. OR
    2. /n, +n, NOT /n
    3. /s
    4. /p
    5. /seg
    6. NOT /seg
    7. AND
    8. AND NOT

    If you use two or more of the same connector, they operate left to right. If the "n" (number) connectors have different numbers, the smallest number is operated on first. You cannot use the /p and /s connectors with a proximity connector (e.g., /n).

    Example: bankrupt! /25 discharg! AND student OR college OR education /5 loan is operated on in the following manner:

    * Because OR has the highest priority, it operates first and creates a unit of student OR college OR education!.
    * /5, the smaller of the /n connectors, ties together the term loan and the previously formed unit of student OR college OR education!.
    * /25 operates next and creates a unit of bankrupt! /25 discharg!.
    * AND, with the lowest priority, operates last and links the units formed in the second and third bullets above.
    • Re:Rules (Score:4, Informative)

      by It doesn't come easy (695416) * on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:12PM (#24403425) Journal
      OK, so we would get this:

      Creates one big collection of records which contain any of the search terms...
      bush or gore or republican! or democrat! or charg! or accus! or criticiz! or blam! or defend! or iran contra or clinton or spotted owl or florida recount or sex! or controvers! or racis! or fraud! or investigat! or bankrupt! or layoff! or downsiz! or PNTR or NAFTA or outsourc! or indict! or enron or kerry or iraq or wmd! or arrest! or intox! or fired or sex! or racis! or intox! or slur! or arrest! or fired or controvers! or abortion! or gay! or homosexual! or gun! or firearm!

      Finds records where the candidate's last name follows within two words of one of the search terms...
      pre/2 [last name of a candidate]

      Finds where the last name and the search term fall within 7 words of any of the search terms...
      w/7
      Example: Would find "sex Clinton" or "sex ____ Clinton" within 7 words of the word bush (probably a lot of hits here if any candidate had the misfortune of being named Clinton).

      Lastly, finds any citation that contains the first name of the candidate within the record set defined by the previous steps...
      [first name of a candidate] and

      Note that including the word "and" here actually disconnected the first name of the candidate from the last name. She should have written:
      [first name of a candidate] pre/2 [last name of a candidate]

      So essentially you would get a list of citations where the last name of the candidate would follow one of the search terms by one or two words and also fell within 7 words of any of the search terms. Sounds like a lot of records.

      Someone check me on this if you would...
  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:30AM (#24402607)

    Back when I used LN a lot, about ten years ago, the thing that made it useful to me even when searching through sources that were indexed elsewhere as well were the search terms like A w/5 B, which searches for term A within 5 words of B. That always produced much more relevant results than A and B, and despite all the praise of things like Pagerank, I've never seen a modern internet search engine give nearly as good of results as I was always able to find using this sort of technique.

    Is this type of search still limited to LN, or are there ways to do the same sort of thing on Yahoo/Google/etc?

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:51AM (#24403003)

    This must be what they mean about a search with a "wide stance".

    Perhaps it's more enlightening to add together all the terms appearing more than once, like sex!, fired, racis!, arrest!, intox! and contravers!. What emerges is an interesting psychological view into the heads of the people doing the search. Based on what they list more than once, I would guess Jan Williams and Monica Gooding are afraid of getting so drunk or otherwise intoxicated that they wind up having sex with someone of a different race, being arrested (perhaps by an aggrieved other-racial spouse or something), and having the subsequent controversy cost them their jobs.

    Just kidding, but who knows? Some of those prim and proper morality queens get really, really twisted when they drink a bit too much. Yeah alcohol!

  • by Jeff1946 (944062) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @12:28PM (#24403673) Journal
    Civil service positions (not political appointees) are supposed to be appointed on merit. Getting around this process is spitting in the eye of the values of American Constitution that we were all taught in school. Even Ashcroft would not do this and specifically instructed his staff that as employees of DOJ they were to be non partisian. Without a doubt the worst administration in modern history. Hopefully America can recover from the deep hole in which it has dug itself.

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

Working...