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Justice officials defend deletions

WASHINGTON -- Justice Department officials defended a decision to delete critical passages from a consultant's report on hiring and promotion of minority and women attorneys before releasing the study to the public.

Career Justice Department officials determined the deleted passages did not have to be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act because they represented "predecisional deliberative information," agency spokesman Mark Corallo said yesterday.

"These redactions were made pursuant to the law," Corallo said.

After the edited version was posted on the Justice Department's website this month, the deleted passages were electronically reconstructed and posted at www.thememoryhole.com.

Although principal statistical information remained in the edited version, most of the conclusions by KPMG Consulting and Taylor Cox & Associates -- even some complimentary ones -- were blacked out. At a hearing this week, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the edited report made it appear that the department "left it on the shelf" with key recommendations ignored.

One deleted passage says improving diversity "will take extraordinarily strong leadership" among top Justice Department officials. Another says that the agency "does face significant diversity issues" and that "minorities are significantly more likely than whites to cite stereotyping, harassment and racial tension" in the workplace.

Some of the deleted material had a more positive tone, such as a line stating that all demographic groups view Justice as "a good place to work."

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