TPMmuckraker has been following the administration's mass firing of U.S. attorneys around the country. Seven, possibly eight, prosecutors have left office in the past five weeks, some being forced out by the administration all for unknown reasons. According to Senator Feinstein, the White House has informed her that they will be replacing as many as 10 attorneys with interim appointees.
These interim appointees can be appointed to office without going through the usual process of Senate hearings under an apparently unexamined bit of the PATRIOT Act:
Section 502 of the PATRIOT Act reauthorization, which was first drafted in July of 2005 and finally signed in March of 2006, changed the law regarding the appointment of U.S. Attorneys. Whereas before the relevant federal district court would have appointed a replacement within 120 days after the Attorney General picked one, now that pick stood without challenge.
These interim appointees would stay in office for the duration of the administration. It is still unclear what the White House is up to in replacing these prosecutors, most of whom (if not all) were Bush appointees. The Senate Judiciary Committee is going to attempt to find out in an oversight hearing on Thursday. Senators Feinstein and Pryor have also demanded that the power to appoint these positions be taken away from Gonzales and given to federal district judges.
Here's Sen. Feinstein's floor statement on the issue today.
See homeland observer's diary for ongoing discussion of the issue.