Thursday, February 03, 2005


I’ve mentioned the Alberto Gonzalez nomination for Attorney General in an earlier post to you all and pointed you toward an excellent synopsis of his candidacy written by People for the American Way. His supervision of the infamous White House “torture memos” which suggested that the president could exempt interrogators from the Geneva Convention is really just the tip of the iceberg. Gonzalez also served as an utterly lazy and uninterested rubber stamp for every death penalty case that reached George W. Bush’s desk as Governor of Texas (there were well over a hundred –– some defendants were convicted with a single accuser as the only evidence against them; others had court-appointed lawyers who – literally – slept through their proceedings; one, Carla Fay Tucker, was a born again Christian whom clergy around the world literally begged Bush not to execute – after she was executed Bush mocked her to a reporter by imitating her crying, “Please don’t kill me!”).

Gonzalez is also just an untalented lawyer, plain and simple – he is one in a long line of appointees who have benefited from a political policy which began with Bush Sr.’s White House: namely the appointing of rightwing minority yes-men (and women) regardless of whether they have the intelligence and experience to do the job for which they were chosen. Call it the “Clarence Thomas Strategy.” This strategy has it’s distinct advantages – you get an appointee who is in political lockstep with you AND you get hundreds of future photo-images of yourself surrounded by minorities in high positions which suggests – suggests -- to the casual voter, political moderation. When people object to them you (subtly or overtly) call them racists, further blurring the lines when it comes to taking sides on Civil Rights. It’s brilliant, actually, and effective when Democrats fail to respond boldly. In this case, they need to say that a) Gonzalez is a disaster as a candidate; and b) he DOES NOT represent Latinos – a majority of the major Latino groups, in fact, are against his candidacy.

When we failed to stop Bush’s last nomination for Attorney General, John Ashcroft, we got someone who was blinded by ideology and consumed with pet-projects, and who consequently told counter-terrorism officials (before 9/11) that he wasn’t interested in terrorism and proceeded to ignore it until it could not be ignored. He then filled the USA Patriot Act with WILD invasions of your privacy that have nothing whatsoever to do with effectively fighting terrorism.

Let’s not make this mistake again.

There is still time to take action against Gonzalez’s candidacy by urging your Senators to vote against his nomination.

At the top of the page you’ll see “Find Elected Officials” which you can click on. You should call your own Senators and ask them to vote no on Gonzalez’s nomination (make sure you tell them you’re one of their state constituents).

You should also call the one Democratic holdout, newly elected Colorado Senator Ken Salazar:

Washington Phone: (202) 224-5852
Fax: (202) 228-5036

Colorado Phone: (303) 455-7600


Salazar has accepted at face value a letter from Gonzalez stating that he now believes torture is illegal and supports human and civil rights (!) But as, Senator Dick Durbin explains in the long quote below (I’ve copied the transcription from Daily Kos) Gonzalez’s actions in front of the Senate put his conversion in grave doubt. I’ll close with Durbin’s opinion.

Mr. Gonzales now says he believes that all torture by U.S. personnel is illegal. But notice what Mr. Gonzales does not say.

I asked Mr. Gonzales whether he believes the President could invoke his authority as Commander-in-Chief to simply ignore the anti-torture statute. Mr. Gonzales refused to answer, saying, "it is simply implausible that I would ever be called upon to address" this question. But Mr. Gonzales and this Administration are the ones who raised this "simply implausible" question. The Justice Department's infamous torture memo, which Mr. Gonzales requested and approved, claims that the President does have this authority.

I asked Mr. Gonzales whether U.S. personnel can legally engage in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under any circumstances. Mr. Gonzales's response was shocking. He claimed that it is legal for the U.S. government to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Specifically, he said, "There is no legal prohibition under the [Torture Convention] on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas." But cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment are expressly prohibited by the Torture Convention, a treaty that the U.S. has ratified and is bound to obey, not just by law but by the rule of conscience. In an editorial entitled, "A Degrading Policy," The Washington Post called Gonzales' position "a gross distortion of the law."

This explains why Mr. Gonzales and this administration opposed my anti-torture amendment to the intelligence reform bill. My amendment would simply have reaffirmed the U.S.' long-standing obligation not to engage in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This is the law of the land.

But Mr. Gonzales claims that my amendment "would have provided legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled." I asked him what additional legal protections my amendment would have provided. Mr. Gonzales refused to respond.

Now we know the legal protections that Mr. Gonzales opposes: the long-standing prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

I asked Mr. Gonzales about media reports that U.S. personnel have used abusive interrogation tactics such as simulated drowning, mock executions, threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity, forcing detainees to assume painful, contorted positions for extended periods of time, and the forcible injection of mood altering drugs. I gave Mr. Gonzales an opportunity to repudiate these tactics and to make clear that this administration will not tolerate such abuses.

He responded, as only a lawyer can, with a very carefully worded and ambiguous answer. He said, "Some of these activities, at least under certain factual assumptions, might very well be prohibited ... Some might likewise be permissible in specific circumstances." What a pack of weasel words about torture techniques. Mr. Gonzales refuses to condemn un-American and degrading conduct that, frankly, shocks the conscience.

I also asked Mr. Gonzales about reports that the U.S. has "outsourced" torture by sending detainees to countries that systematically engage in torture. The Torture Convention prohibits a government from sending someone to a country if there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being tortured. As a party to the Torture Convention, we are bound to abide by this prohibition.

Mr. Gonzales responded with another very lawyerly answer. He said that "it is permissible in appropriate circumstances to rely on assurances from a country that it will not engage in torture, and such assurances can provide a basis for concluding that a person is not likely to be tortured if returned to another country."

Based on this reading of the law, the Administration has reportedly sent detainees to countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, which systematically engage in torture. These detainees have said publicly that they were in fact tortured after they were transferred to these countries. It is indefensible to send a detainee to a country that regularly uses torture on the basis of hollow assurances that it will not torture the detainee. Outsourcing torture is morally equivalent to engaging in torture.

The bottom line is this. Mr. Gonzales says he is opposed to torture, but he believes the President can invoke the Commander-in-Chief exception to set aside the torture statute; and he believes it is legally permissible to outsource torture.

He says it is Administration policy to treat detainees humanely, but he believes it is legally permissible to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; he opposes my anti-torture amendment, which would have reaffirmed the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and he refuses to condemn a host of abusive tactics such as mock execution and simulated drowning.

These are not the principles on which our nation is based. America is a nation founded on the ideals of freedom and justice. We believe that no one is above the law, no one is outside the law, and no government official should ever be invested with the power, real or imagined, to ignore, bend or break the rule of law.

6 Democratic Senators voted to confirm Gonzales as Attorney General: Salazar of Colorado, Nelson of Fla., Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor of Arkansas, Landrieu of Louisiana, and (blech) Lieberman of Conn.

Call their offices and let them have it! If someone doesn't run against Lieberman from his left in his next election than there IS NO DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT.


Post a Comment

<< Home