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Deleted passages show diversity flaws at Justice Department

An internal report that harshly criticized the Justice Department's diversity efforts was edited so heavily when it was posted on the department's Web site two weeks ago that half of its 186 pages, including the summary, were blacked out.

The censored passages, electronically recovered by a self-described "information archaeologist" in Tucson, Ariz., portrayed the department's record on diversity as flawed, specifically in the hiring, promotion and retention of minority lawyers.

The unedited report, completed in June 2002 by the consulting firm KPMG, found that minority employees at the department, which is responsible for enforcing the country's civil rights laws, perceive their workplace as biased and unfair.

Among the censored findings: "The department does face significant diversity issues. Whites and minorities, as well as men and women, perceive differences in many aspects of the work climate. For example, minorities are significantly more likely than whites to cite stereotyping, harassment and racial tension as characteristics of the work climate. Many of these differences are also present between men and women, although to a lesser extent."

"The Justice Department has sought to hide from the public statistically significant findings of discrimination against minorities within its ranks," said David Schaffer, a lawyer who has represented agents from a number of federal agencies in class-action lawsuits charging discrimination. "These cases challenge the same type of discriminatory practices found to exist at the Justice Department."

Mark Corallo of the Justice Department said portions of the report, and even its conclusions, were "deliberative and predecisional" and therefore could be excluded from the public report under provisions in the Freedom of Information Act. He said some of the consultant's findings were inaccurate, but he said he could not discuss deleted passages.

Stacey Plaskett Duffy, a senior counsel to the deputy attorney general, said the study was an evaluation that was part of a program to improve the department's diversity programs. "This was a study that we commissioned of our own volition to get a look at what our work force looked like," she said. "We didn't have to let people know we were doing this."