November 10, 2004

Statement of Anthony Romero, ACLU Executive Director


WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union stands by its 80-year record of uncompromising non-partisanship. Accordingly, the ACLU takes no official position on the appointment of Mr. Alberto Gonzales to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The board, staff and more than 400,000 members of the ACLU do call, however, for a full and thorough Senate confirmation process that scrutinizes Mr. Gonzales' positions on key civil liberties and human rights issues. Particular attention should be devoted to exploring Mr. Gonzales' proposed policies on the constitutionality of the Patriot Act, the Guantanamo Bay detentions, the designation of United States citizens as enemy combatants and reproductive rights.

Mr. Gonzales should be queried, moreover, on his January 25, 2002 memo, authored in his capacity as White House counsel, which described certain legal protections guaranteed in the Geneva Conventions to persons captured during military hostilities as "obsolete" and "quaint." His confirmation hearings should also examine in detail Mr. Gonzales' approval of the now-disavowed Justice Department memoranda that condoned the torture and incommunicado and indefinite detention of detainees captured during the Afghanistan conflict.

It is the Senate's duty to make certain that the next Attorney General is committed to enforcing the civil rights laws that are critical to protecting the American value of fairness. It is imperative that the Senate demands that the next leader of the Department of Justice restore the strength and integrity of the Civil Rights Division.

John Ashcroft's tenure has made clear that the post of Attorney General holds the key to our most fundamental freedoms. It is not enough for the White House to simply put a fresh face on the same old policies of violating civil liberties and human rights. Members of the Senate must ensure that any Attorney General will understand, respect, and uphold the basic rights of our democracy.

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