NewsHour Extra Feature Stories
NewsHour Extra features stories can help students identify and interpret key issues
in current events. This activity anticipates one class period, but the follow-up
essay might be assigned as homework, or in another period.
Up: Use initiating questions to introduce the topic and find out how much
your students know.
Activity: Have students read NewsHour Extra's feature story and answer the
questions on the reading comprehension handout.
Use discussion questions to encourage students to think about how the issues outlined
in the story affect their lives and express and debate different opinions.
Students can write an 500-word editorial on the topic expressing their views
and send it to NewsHour Extra [firstname.lastname@example.org]
for possible publication.
Students are graded on their answers to reading comprehension questions and/or
New Attorney General Will Help Shape National Policy, 11/15/04
1. What government departments or agencies comprise the U.S. legal system
Who is John Ashcroft?
3. What does the Justice Department do?
Comprehension Questions: (click here for
Whom did President Bush recently nominate to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft?
that President Bush has won a second term, he is making changes to his Cabinet,
including nominating White House lawyer Alberto Gonzalez to replace Attorney General
John Ashcroft as the head of the Justice Department -- the top law enforcement
office in the federal government.
Is the nominee a popular choice with everyone?
a former Texas Supreme Court judge and secretary of state, has been hailed by
the Bush administration as a trusted friend in times of crisis and someone with
an "unwavering principle of respect for the law."
civil liberty groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and People for
the American Way, question Gonzalez's respect for civil liberties, a major area
of law in the Justice Department. They accuse Gonzalez of authoring a memo giving
the U.S. administration the green light to disregard anti-torture laws and international
treaties that protect prisoners during times of war.
the time of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, when it was found that U.S.
soldiers had tortured Iraqi prisoners, Gonzalez's memo was criticized as providing
justification for the abuse.
Why is the nomination of an attorney general important?
din surrounding Gonzalez's nomination is not unique. In general, the nomination
of a candidate for the attorney general's post is controversial because the position
wields a lot of power. As head of the Justice Department, the attorney general
represents the government in Supreme Court cases and presides over cases of federal
crimes such as corporate fraud, drug trafficking, gun crimes, and child exploitation
and Internet fraud crimes such as Internet child pornography.
though the attorney general is the only member of the president's Cabinet not
given the title secretary, whoever fills the post often is one of the president's
Which former attorney general is known for the Palmer raids?
1919, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer rounded up and arrested more than 10,000
foreign nationals accused of being part of a possible Communist revolution and
held them without trial. The raids, criticized as an abuse of the attorney general's
power, became known as the Palmer raids.
Describe two controversies that tainted Attorney General Janet Reno's tenure?
1993, newly appointed Attorney General Janet Reno, the country's first woman attorney
general, faced her first crisis when 76 members of a religious sect known as the
Branch Davidians died in a fire at their Waco, Texas, compound during a 51-day
standoff with federal officers.
investigation found that federal agents under Reno's watch had used pyrotechnic,
or fire-starting, devices as part of a raid to end the standoff.
again faced criticism when she ordered the forceful removal of 6-year-old Cuban
immigrant Elian Gonzalez from his family's home in Miami. Gonzalez had been taken
in by relatives in Miami after an accident killed his mother. But when Cuban leader
Fidel Castro joined Gonzalez's father in demanding the boy's return to Cuba, Reno
sent armed guards to storm the family's home in a highly publicized raid.
What controversial law did Attorney General John Ashcroft stand behind after the
Sept. 11 attacks?
Ashcroft's four years in office, the former senator from Missouri was at the center
of a national debate over the controversial USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism
law passed in 2002 that gave federal officers more power to gather information
about individuals. Opponents of the law said it ate away at civil liberties.
What is the duty of the attorney general according to the American Civil Liberties
Ashcroft's tenure has made clear that the post of attorney general holds the key
to our most fundamental freedoms," said a statement from the ACLU after Ashcroft's
resignation. "It is not enough for the White House to simply put a fresh
face on the same old policies of violating civil liberties and human rights."
the nomination press conference, Gonzalez said "the American people expect
and deserve a Department of Justice guided by the rule of law, and there should
be no question regarding the department's commitment to justice for every American."
Activity (more research might be needed):
After reading the NewsHour transcript "Justice Nominee," at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec04/justice_11-10.html,
examine Alberto Gonzalez' record as a Texas Supreme Court judge. In your opinion
is he a good choice for Attorney General? Why or why not?
Imagine you are a U.S. Senator at Gonzalez's confirmation hearing. What sorts
of questions would you ask as you make the decision whether or not to confirm
a 500-800 word essay on any of these
topics providing clear examples. Send your completed editorial to NewsHour Extra
[email@example.com]. Exceptional essays
might be published on our Web site.