ACLU Calls on Attorney General Gonzales to Show Commitment to Justice, Appoint Special Counsel on Torture Abuses to Uncover Truth

February 3, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The newly confirmed attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, should immediately appoint an outside special counsel to investigate and prosecute any criminal acts by civilians in the torture or abuse of detainees by the U.S. government, the American Civil Liberties Union said today.

“Alberto Gonzales must demonstrate his willingness to uphold the oath of office as attorney general by appointing an independent special counsel that will credibly investigate and prosecute the high-level government officials who were responsible for allowing torture and abuse to take place,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The questions senators had about torture will not go away now that Gonzales is confirmed– a special counsel is the only way we can get to the truth of the matter.”

As a matter of policy the ACLU does not endorse or oppose nominees for cabinet-level positions, but it does examine and publicize their civil liberties records, as it did with attorney general nominees John Ashcroft and Gonzales.

The Senate confirmed Gonzales today on a vote of 60 to 36, one of the narrowest confirmation votes ever for an attorney general. Notably, Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), who had voted to confirm attorney general nominee John Ashcroft, voted against Gonzales’ confirmation.

For the past three days, senators engaged in rigorous debate about Gonzales’ qualifications. The ACLU noted that a recurring concern raised by senators was the Bush administration’s policies on the torture and abuse of detainees. At his confirmation hearing, Gonzales failed to adequately answer questions from senators of both parties about his involvement with those policies and their implementation.

Additionally, The New York Times has reported that Michael Chertoff, nominee for chief of homeland security, “advised the Central Intelligence Agency on the legality of coercive interrogation methods on terror suspects under the federal anti-torture statute.” The ACLU said that a special counsel, free from political pressure, would be the only way to fully investigate the torture and abuse scandal.

“Gonzales pledged to be the attorney general of all Americans, and not be in the president’s pocket,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “A small number of enlisted men and women in the military and a few low-ranking military officers should not be the only individuals held responsible for the torture and abuse that repulsed all Americans, if civilians were also engaged in criminal conduct. The American people deserve to know the truth.”

The ACLU’s letter to the Senate urging a special counsel can be read at:

The ACLU’s report on Gonzales’s civil rights and civil liberties record is available at:

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