From NBC's Pete Williams
President Bush today granted clemency to two former Border Patrol agents -- Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos -- who were convicted for shooting a Mexican drug dealer. Their pardons became a big cause among conservatives, especially as the debate over illegal immigration heated up.
What Bush did today was commute their sentences, but he did so before he received a recommendation from the Justice Department's pardon attorney. "The Office of the Pardon Attorney was still in the process of reviewing the clemency requests from Compean and Ramos at the time these commutations were granted," a Justice official says.
In fact, the Justice Department was still reviewing the applications and had not made a recommendation to the White House.
Today's action brings to 182 the total number of pardons and grants of clemency during the eight years of President Bush's term. That compares with 459 during Bill Clinton's eight years and 406 during Reagan's eight years. In short, this president has used the pardon power less than any of his modern predecessors.