Senate Panel Approves Gonzales As Attorney General; ACLU Urges Senators to Demand Documents Before Voting

January 26, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON-The Senate Judiciary Committee today narrowly approved the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, sending to the full Senate an appointment made controversial by the Bush Administration’s torture policies. In a sign of how controversial the nomination has become, all of the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic members voted against Gonzales.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which does not take a position on cabinet nominations, said that the Senate cannot meaningfully exercise its constitutional duty of “advise and consent” on the Gonzales nomination because the Administration continues to stonewall against releasing documents on how it developed its policies on interrogation and torture, and Gonzales himself refuses to answer even basic questions on his role in those policies.

“It is time for the Senate to demand that Gonzales and the Bush Administration come clean on the roles that high-ranking leaders had in removing protections against torture and abuse,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. “It’s clear that Gonzales and top Bush administration officials created the legal framework and permissive climate that led to the torture and abuse.”

The committee vote in favor of Gonzales surprisingly broke straight along party lines. Among the unexpected “no” votes was Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), who four years ago voted to confirm the current Attorney General, John Ashcroft.

The ACLU noted that just last week, another low-ranking corporal was sentenced to prison for abuse, while this week an architect of the interrogation and torture policies is on the verge of a promotion to be the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, the ACLU has released more than 23,000 pages of documents detailing the military’s widespread torture and abuse of detainees in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The documents are catalogued at: /torturefoia.

“We should all be disturbed that top officials involved in developing policies that paved the way for the horrific abuses are now getting even better jobs such as a federal judge, a law school professor, a top Senate counsel, or even a Cabinet position,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “Enlisted men and women and low-ranking military officers should not be the only persons held responsible if civilians also engaged in misconduct.”

The ACLU said that former Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel Jay Bybee, the author of a controversial and now-discredited memo that said the government to engage in torture, is now a federal judge. John Yoo, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel is now a law professor at the University of California’s Boalt Hall Law School while former Office of Legal Counsel attorney-advisor James Ho is now chief counsel to Senator John Cornyn, Finally, Alberto Gonzales has, of course, been nominated as Attorney General and Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes II was just renominated to an open federal appellate judgeship.

“All five of these lawyers were involved in the development of policies that removed protections against torture or abuse of prisoners,” Anders said. “The Senate must start holding Gonzales and other high-ranking officials responsible for their actions.”

To read the ACLU’s report on the civil liberties and civil rights record of Mr. Gonzales, go to:

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