Chertoff Shows No Remorse for Round-up of Arab, Muslim and South Asian Men; Dodges Tough Questions From Senators on Torture

February 2, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Michael Chertoff, nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security and the force behind the unprovoked detention of hundreds of Arab, South Asian and Muslim men after 9/11, showed no regrets for that roundup during his Senate confirmation hearing today. He also acknowledged he was consulted on the development and implementation of a notorious Justice Department torture memo.

In the days after the terrorist attacks, hundreds of Arab, South Asian and Muslim men were detained using minor immigration violations that would not normally warrant detention, a racial and religious profiling policy that the American Civil Liberties Union said was developed and carried out by Chertoff.

“Chertoff set in motion the roundup of more than 700 Muslim, South Asian and Arab men but accepts absolutely no responsibility for the bad consequences. Instead, he pins the blame on the FBI and prison officials,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel who attended the hearing. “He had the opportunity to fully explain his commitment to the Bill of Rights – and he failed to do so today.”

The ACLU said that Chertoff was generally unresponsive and uninformative during his confirmation hearing, failing to give specific answers to specific questions about his qualifications and his views on pressing civil liberties issues.

“Chertoff was an artful dodger of tough, yet simple questions,” Anders added. “Senators asked specific questions about his record, and unfortunately, Mr. Chertoff was unable and unwilling to provide straightforward answers.”

As a matter of policy, the ACLU neither opposes nor endorses cabinet-level appointments. It does examine and publicize nominees’ civil liberties records, as it has done with Chertoff and Attorney General Nominee Alberto Gonzales. On Monday, the ACLU issued a memorandum on Chertoff’s civil liberties record.

Recently, The New York Times reported that Chertoff “advised the Central Intelligence Agency on the legality of coercive interrogation methods on terror suspects under the federal anti-torture statute.” In a direct question today from Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Chertoff directly disputed that specific account. However, he did admit that he was consulted in the development of the notorious Bybee memo on the definition of torture and said that he advised intelligence officers on the scope of the Anti-Torture Act.

The ACLU has recently called upon Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales, once confirmed, to appoint a special counsel to investigate and prosecute any criminal acts by civilians in the torture or abuse of detainees by the U.S. Government.

“While military personnel are being sentenced for involvement in the torture scandal, top-level Bush officials involved in the removal of protections against torture are up for promotion to the President’s Cabinet,” Anders said. “There is something wrong when enlisted men and women are the only ones sent to prison for committing torture, while top political officials who developed the torture policies are getting better jobs.”

The ACLU’s memorandum on Chertoff’s civil liberties record can be read at:
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