Even as the president is sworn in, the denied rights of protestors and the proclamations of his nominee make a mockery of his sworn oath, writes UFPPC’s Madeleine Lee....

By Madeleine Lee

United for Peace of Pierce County (WA)
January 20, 2005

The juxtaposition of the George W. Bush’s second inaugural and the Alberto Gonzales hearings shows how George W. Bush mocks the very principles he has sworn to uphold.

In extensive written responses given by Alberto Gonzales to questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee and released Tuesday by committee Democrats, the White House demonstrates once again that its rejection of torture is purely rhetorical, purely public relations.[1]

In an extraordinary assertion that demonstrates just how far he has strayed from any sane understanding of the concept of human rights, Alberto Gonzales makes the argument that U.S. national security precludes making publicly known precisely what constitutes torture, because, he wrote, if we “were to begin ruling out speculated interrogation practices" in public, "we would fairly rapidly provide Al Qaeda with a road map concerning the interrogation that captured terrorists can expect to face and would enable Al Qaeda to improve its counter-interrogation training to match it."

What arrant nonsense. Torture illegal under both the law of the United States (18 U.S. Code Sect. 2340) and under international law (Article 17 of the Third Geneva Conventions), and is adequately defined in both places.

The Senate committee has postponed its vote on his nomination to be the next attorney general of the United States, probably until Jan. 26, the New York Times reported Thursday.[2]

Rejection of Gonzales would be highly desirable, as a rebuke to an administration strenuously protecting its right to torture whomsoever it pleases under the president’s constitutional Article II, Section 2, commander-in-chief powers.

Such a doctrine, and the principles alleged to support it, strike at the heart of the American system of government and the checks and balances that have, historically, been its foundational principle.

Alberto Gonzales in particular and the Bush administration in general represent an effort to overturn and abolish this principle.

Instead of a government dedicated to human rights, these devotees of the U.S. national security state propose to erect a militaristic, securitarian state that abandons the notion of individual rights for the sake of an endless “war on terror,” even as it claims, in good Orwellian fashion, to defend “freedom” and “liberty.”

Inauguration Day 2005 in the nation’s capital was the very image of this approach.

While the president invoked “freedom” or “liberty” fifty times in his Inaugural Address and said he wants to “spread” it around the world, many American citizens were excluded from major portions of President Bush's inaugural parade route.

This, despite the clear statement in the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” and the clear statement in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution giving to Congress “Power . . . To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States.”

Thus as the president declared, at the beginning of his address, that “On this day, prescribed by law and marked by ceremony, we celebrate the durable wisdom of our Constitution, and recall the deep commitments that unite our country” and promised that he was “determined to fulfill the oath that I have sworn and you have witnessed,” American citizens were being denied basic rights that the Constitution guarantees, and his nominee to be the chief law enforcement of the federal government was defending his right to break the law.



By Eric Lichtblau

New York Times
January 19, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Officers of the Central Intelligence Agency and other nonmilitary personnel fall outside the bounds of a 2002 directive issued by President Bush that pledged the humane treatment of prisoners in American custody, Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, said in documents released on Tuesday.

In written responses to questions posed by senators as part of his confirmation for attorney general, Mr. Gonzales also said a separate Congressional ban on cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment had "a limited reach" and did not apply in all cases to "aliens overseas." That position has clear implications for prisoners held in American custody at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq, legal analysts said.

At the same time, however, the president has a clear policy opposing torture, and "the C.I.A. and other nonmilitary personnel are fully bound" by it, Mr. Gonzales said.

The administration's views on torture and the treatment of prisoners have been the focus of the process of confirming Mr. Gonzales, and a number of senators had pressed him for a fuller explanation, unsatisfied with the answers he gave at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His written responses, totaling more than 200 pages on torture and other questions and released Tuesday by the committee's Democrats, offered one of the administration's most expansive statements of its positions on a variety of issues, particularly regarding laws and policies governing C.I.A. interrogation of terror suspects.

Mr. Gonzales's acknowledgment in the written statements that the White House did not consider the C.I.A. bound by the same rules as military personnel is significant because the intelligence agency has carried out some of the government's most aggressive and controversial interrogation tactics in interviewing "high value" terror suspects. These techniques include "water boarding," in which interrogators make it appear that the suspect will be drowned.

Martin Lederman, a former Justice Department lawyer who has analyzed the administration's legal positions on treatment of prisoners, said the documents released Tuesday made it clear that the White House had carved an exemption for the C.I.A. in how it goes about interrogating terror suspects, allowing the agency to engage in conduct outside the United States that would be unconstitutionally abusive within its borders. Although the C.I.A. has been largely bound by Congressional bans on torture, Mr. Lederman said that standard was more permissive than the 2002 directive from Mr. Bush.

Last month, at the urging of the White House, Congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by intelligence officers at the C.I.A. and elsewhere. Mr. Gonzales said in the newly released answers that he had not been involved in the lobbying effort.

"But it's notable," Mr. Lederman added, "that Gonzales is not willing to tell the senators or anyone else just what techniques the C.I.A. has actually been authorized to use."

Indeed, Mr. Gonzales declined to say in his written responses to the committee what interrogation tactics would constitute torture in his view or which ones should be banned.

That question, he indicated, is again under review by the administration. But if the administration "were to begin ruling out speculated interrogation practices" in public, he wrote, "we would fairly rapidly provide Al Qaeda with a road map concerning the interrogation that captured terrorists can expect to face and would enable Al Qaeda to improve its counter-interrogation training to match it."

Some Democrats said they remained unsatisfied with Mr. Gonzales's responses.

"This was another missed opportunity for straight answers and accountability," declared Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, who said he considered most of Mr. Gonzales's written answers to be "vague, unresponsive or AWOL."

Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who leads the committee, has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday on the nomination. But Congressional officials said it was unlikely that the nomination would come to a vote for at least a week, in part because the committee may not have enough senators for a quorum Wednesday and in part because some Democrats want to press the nominee further about the administration's positions on torture.

While Mr. Gonzales still appears likely to be confirmed, several Democratic senators, including Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles E. Schumer of New York, say they are rethinking their support.

Among the issues addressed by Mr. Gonzales in his written responses Tuesday were his continued support for the USA Patriot Act, his support for Roe v. Wade as "the law of the land" and his support for a ban on assault weapons, a prohibition that Congress allowed to expire last year. But the bulk of the questions, after abuses in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay, centered on the administration's treatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism.

In a directive issued to senior administration officials in February 2002 on the treatment of the hundreds of men seized during the war in Afghanistan, President Bush reaffirmed a Pentagon policy requiring humane treatment of prisoners.

At the time, the White House cast the directive in broad terms. Ari Fleischer, then the White House spokesman, said in announcing the policy, "Consistent with the American values and the principles of the Geneva Convention, the United States has treated and will continue to treat all Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees in Guantánamo Bay humanely and consistent with the principles of the Geneva Convention."

Questioned by Senator Leahy and others about the directive, Mr. Gonzales said in his written reply that the president's policy "was designed to provided guidance to the United States armed services." Asked whether C.I.A. officers and other nonmilitary personnel fell under that order, he said, "No."

In intense internal discussions that began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies pressed for greater power to use coercive techniques against "high value" military targets, and for legal protection of their officers who used such tactics.

Such discussions, Mr. Gonzales said in one written answer Tuesday, resulted from "concerns that certain terrorists had information that might save American lives."

"There was a desire to explore certain methods of questioning these terrorists," he said, "but there was concern that nothing be done that would violate the law."



By Eric Lichtblau

New York Times
January 20, 2005

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/20/politics/20gonzales.html WASHINGTON -- The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed a vote on Alberto R. Gonzales's nomination for attorney general on Wednesday after Democrats accused Mr. Gonzales of evading their questions about the Bush administration's policies on the treatment of prisoners captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, who sought the delay, said at a committee meeting that Mr. Gonzales's written responses to questions about the administration's policies on torture had been "arrogant" and evasive. He pressed for Mr. Gonzales to produce notes and records that might shed light on the positions he had taken as White House counsel, in particular, a 2002 memo on the limits of torture.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, who is chairman of the committee, said that at first glance he was satisfied with Mr. Gonzales's answers, calling them "an expansive response on relatively short notice." But Mr. Specter agreed to put off the vote for a week and to review the voluminous material to determine whether fuller answers were needed. He said afterward that he did not think Mr. Gonzales's ultimate confirmation was in any jeopardy.

Delaying a vote on a nominee to give senators time to explore all issues "is really the tradition of the committee when there are controversial matters," Mr. Specter said, referring to a longstanding committee rule that allowed the Democrats to hold over the nominee for a week. The judiciary committee is now likely to vote on Mr. Gonzales on Jan. 26.

With Mr. Kennedy and several Democrats rethinking their positions on Mr. Gonzales's nomination, Mr. Specter acknowledged that the nominee could face a number of no votes on the committee before the full Senate took up his nomination. He said he wanted to see Mr. Gonzales avoid a party-line vote in order to strengthen his position as attorney general.

Four years ago, Attorney General John Ashcroft faced an even more bruising confirmation fight.

After the Judiciary Committee endorsed Mr. Ashcroft's nomination on a 10-to-8 party-line vote in January 2001, the full Senate voted 58 to 42 to approve him, the largest number of votes against a nominee for attorney general in 75 years. The tough fight set the tone for four years of what were often tense relations between Mr. Ashcroft's Justice Department and Congress.

In written responses given to the committee on Tuesday, Mr. Gonzales laid out the administration's positions on the treatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But on a number of important issues, he said he could not remember key details or declined to provide them in part because they involved classified information or confidential advice.

Mr. Kennedy expressed his frustration at Wednesday's committee meeting and read one line repeatedly from Mr. Gonzales's written responses, in which the nominee said "I have not conducted a search" for notes and other documents that might explain the origins of a 2002 legal opinion given to Mr. Gonzales by the Justice Department. The memo, which laid out a very narrow definition of torture, has since been disavowed by the Bush administration.