Congress Should Demand Answers from Attorney General

July 23, 2008 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union urges the House Judiciary Committee to demand accountability from Attorney General Michael Mukasey during the Department of Justice oversight hearing scheduled for today.

“Mukasey was supposed to come in and clean up the Justice Department, but instead he seems to be intent on burying any evidence of wrongdoing by the Bush administration,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, “In addition to asking Congress to rubberstamp failed administration policies on torture and wiretapping, he’s offered at least one new bad policy of his own by paving the way for the FBI to use racial and ethnic profiling as a factor in deciding whether to open up investigations,” she said.

The Associated Press revealed that new FBI guidelines allowing racial profiling are scheduled to be implemented later this summer. The ACLU has urged that Congress ask Mukasey for more information including a copy of the proposed guidelines. The ACLU urges members to ask Mukasey how new guidelines would help, not hurt, intelligence gathering when it would damage trust with Arab and Muslim communities?

The oversight hearing also comes days after Attorney General Mukasey called on Congress to enact the Bush administration’s scheme for undermining the recent Supreme Court decision restoring constitutional habeas corpus protections to the detainees at Guantanamo.

Fredrickson noted that the clock is ticking for the administration. She said, “with only 180 days left of the Bush administration and less than five weeks left in the congressional calendar, Mukasey is asking Congress to give the president power to declare anyone a terrorist and hold the person without ever charging him or her with a crime. He should be working to defend the Constitution, not gut it.”

The hearing will also likely focus again on the question of whether the Justice Department will investigate possible torture crimes by high government officials. “Mukasey has some explaining to do. He has said that he will not investigate or prosecute any top government officials for any torture crimes because they relied on Office of Legal Counsel opinions, but those opinions did not exist until August 2002,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. He explained, “The DOJ Inspector General reported that–several months before the OLC opinions were signed–FBI agents witnessed what they described as ‘borderline torture’ committed by CIA agents claiming authorization from ‘the highest levels,’ and former Attorney General John Ashcroft testified last week that he did not provide any legal advice on interrogations and did not know of anyone else at DOJ providing such advice prior to August 2002. The big question for Mukasey is whether he will investigate who ordered any torture crimes committed prior to the infamous torture memos?”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has been leading a year-long probe into whether high-level Bush administration officials committed or authorized crimes of torture and abuse-and he has repeatedly demanded that Mukasey appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate any torture crimes ordered at the top levels of government.

Link to ACLU letter asking Congress to look into the FBI proposal:

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