Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois justified his vote against Alberto Gonzales as attorney general in this eloquent speech, defining the issue at hand as "whether, in the age of terrorism, America will continue to be a nation based on the rule of law, or whether we, out of fear, abandon time-tested values. That is what is at issue." -- As Sen. Durbin says, it was Gonzales, along with others like Bybee, Yoo, and Haynes, who made it possible for Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo to happen; they are the ones who "found the loopholes, invented the weasel words and covered the whole process with winks and nods." -- As to the "extraordinary rendition" policy of the U.S., he says: "Outsourcing torture is morally equivalent to engaging in torture." -- Durbin summed up his own conception of the commitment of the United States to the rule of law in these words: "America is a nation founded on the ideals of freedom and justice. We believe that no one is above the law, no one is outside the law, and no government official should ever be invested with the power, real or imagined, to ignore, bend or break the rule of law. As our distinguished ranking member, the Senator from Vermont, has said, Mr. Gonzales's assertion that a President is free to break any law he regards as unconstitutional is as radical a definition of executive power as any of us has ever heard." -- Sen. Durbin is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that held hearings on the Gonzales nomination, and he is a lawyer himself, with a 1969 J.D. from Georgetown University. He was reelected in 2002 and is now in his second term in the U.S. Senate....
FORMS OF TORTURE
By Senator Richard J. Durbin
February 2, 2005
Statement of Senator Richard J. Durbin on the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to serve as Attorney General of the United States. Mr. President, after every war, history is written. There are stories of courage, compassion, and glory, and stories of cruelty, weakness, and shame.
When history is written of our war on terrorism, it will record the millions of acts of heroism, kindness, and sacrifice performed by American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other nations. And it will record as well the stunning courage of Iraqi men and women standing in line last Sunday, defying the terrorist bullets and bombs to vote in the first free election of their lives.
But sadly, history will also recall that after 9/11, and after the invasion of Iraq, some in America concluded our Nation could no longer afford to stand by time-honored principles of humanity, principles of humane conduct embodied in the law of the land and respected by Presidents of both political parties for generations.
Next to the image of Saddam Hussein's statue dragged from its pedestal to the dirt below will be the horrifying image of the hooded prisoner at Abu Ghraib, standing on a makeshift pedestal, tethered to electrical wires.
Alberto Gonzales is a skilled lawyer. His life story is nothing short of inspiring. I have the greatest respect for his success, for what he has achieved, and for the obstacles he has overcome.
But this debate is not about Mr. Gonzales's life story. This debate is about whether, in the age of terrorism, America will continue to be a nation based on the rule of law, or whether we, out of fear, abandon time-tested values. That is what is at issue.
The war in Iraq is more dangerous today because of the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison. Our conduct has been called into question around the world. Our moral standing has been challenged, and now we are being asked to promote a man who was at the center of the debate over secretive policies that created an environment that led to Abu Ghraib.
What happened at Abu Ghraib? What continues to happen at Guantánamo? What happened to the standards of civilized conduct America proudly followed and demanded of every other nation in the world?
Some dismiss these horrible acts as the demented conduct of only a few, the runaway emotions of renegade night shift soldiers, the inevitable passions and fears of men living in the charnel house of war. But we now know that if there was unspeakable cruelty in those dimly lit prison cells, there was also a cruel process underway in the brightly lit corridors of power in Washington.
At the center of this process, at the center of this administration's effort to redefine the acceptable and legal treatment of prisoners and detainees was Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to President George W. Bush. And with the skill that only lawyers can bring, Mr. Gonzales, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee and others found the loopholes, invented the weasel words and covered the whole process with winks and nods.
At the very least, Mr. Gonzales helped to create a permissive environment that made it more likely that abuses would take place. You can connect the dots from the administration's legal memos to the Defense Department's approval of abusive interrogation techniques for Guantanamo Bay, to Iraq and Abu Ghraib, where those tactics migrated.
Blaming Abu Ghraib completely on night shift soldiers ignores critical decisions on torture policy made at the highest levels of our Government, decisions that Mr. Gonzales played a major role in making. If we are going to hold those at the lowest levels accountable, it is only fair to hold those at the highest levels accountable as well.
Let's review what we know.
First, Mr. Gonzales recommended to the President that the Geneva Conventions should not apply to the war on terrorism. In a January 2002 memo to the President, Mr. Gonzales concluded that the war on terrorism "renders obsolete" the Geneva Conventions. This is a memo written by the man who would be Attorney General.
Colin Powell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff objected strenuously to this conclusion by Alberto Gonzales. They argued that we could effectively prosecute a war on terrorism while still living up to the standards of the Geneva Conventions.
In a memo to Mr. Gonzales, Secretary of State Colin Powell pointed out that the Geneva Conventions would allow us to deny POW status to al-Qaida and other terrorists and that they would not limit our ability to question a detainee or hold him indefinitely. So, contrary to the statements by some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, complying with the Geneva Conventions does not mean giving POW status to terrorists. Colin Powell knew that. The Joint Chiefs of Staff knew that. Alberto Gonzales refused to accept that.
In his memo to Mr. Gonzales, Secretary Powell went on to say that if we did not apply the Geneva Conventions to the war on terrorism, "it will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice . . . and undermine the protections of the law of war for our own troops . . . It will undermine public support among critical allies, making military cooperation more difficult to sustain."
The President rejected Secretary Powell's wise counsel and instead accepted Mr. Gonzales's counsel. He issued a memo concluding that "new thinking in the law of war" was needed and that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the war on terrorism.
And then what followed? Mr. Gonzales requested, approved, and disseminated this new Justice Department torture memo. This infamous memo narrowly redefined torture as limited only to abuse that causes pain equivalent to organ failure or death, and concluded that the torture statute which makes torture a crime in America does not apply to interrogations conducted under the President's Commander in Chief authority. That was the official Government policy for 2 years.
Then relying on the President's Geneva Conventions determination and the Justice Department's new definition of torture, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved numerous abusive interrogation tactics for use against prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, even as he acknowledged that some nations may view those tactics as inhumane. These techniques have Orwellian names such as "environmental manipulation."
The Red Cross has concluded that the use of these methods at Guantánamo was more than inhumane. It was, in the words of the Red Cross, "a form of torture."
We have recently learned that numerous FBI agents who observed interrogations at Guantánamo Bay complained to their supervisors about the use of these methods, methods which began at the desks of Alberto Gonzales and the Department of Justice, moving through the Department of Defense to Guantánamo Bay. In one e-mail that has been released under the Freedom of Information Act, an FBI agent complained that interrogators were using what he called "torture techniques." This is not from a critic of the United States who believes that we should not be waging a war on terrorism. These are words from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Let me read the graphic language in an e-mail written by another FBI agent about what he saw:
"On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor."
These are the words of an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who viewed the interrogation techniques at Guantánamo, techniques that flowed from the memo that came across Mr. Gonzales's desk to the Department of Defense down to these dimly lit cells. And the Red Cross and the FBI agree that they are torture.
The Commander of Guantánamo Bay's detention operations gave the Guantánamo policies to senior officers in Iraq and they became the "bedrock" for interrogation tactics in Iraq, according to a Defense Department investigation.
The horrible images that emerged from Abu Ghraib have seared into our minds the nature of some of these techniques, including the forced removal of clothing, using dogs to intimidate detainees, and placing detainees in painful stress positions.
There is no room for legal hair-splitting when it comes to the humane treatment of detainees -- not in a nation founded on the rule of law and respect for human rights. The tortured debate about torture, conducted at the highest levels of our government, sent a signal to our commanders and troops that the law of war is an obstacle to be overcome, not a bright line that should not be crossed.
For more than two years, the Justice Department's torture memo stood as the official policy of this administration.
At the last moment, just hours before the start of the hearing on Mr. Gonzales's nomination in the Senate Judiciary Committee, the administration officially repudiated its redefinition of torture -- the same administration, I might add, which last fall had resisted my amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill to formally restate our commitment not to engage in torture and other inhumane treatment, and only weeks before had actually opposed my amendment to the intelligence reform bill to do exactly the same. Facing the inevitable questions in this Senate about Mr. Gonzales's role in this embarrassing episode, the administration recanted, more than two years after their efforts to redefine torture.
Mr. Gonzales now says he believes that all torture by U.S. personnel is illegal. But notice what Mr. Gonzales does not say.
I asked Mr. Gonzales whether he believes the President could invoke his authority as Commander-in-Chief to simply ignore the anti-torture statute. Mr. Gonzales refused to answer, saying, "it is simply implausible that I would ever be called upon to address" this question. But Mr. Gonzales and this administration are the ones who raised this "simply implausible" question. The Justice Department's infamous torture memo, which Mr. Gonzales requested and approved, claims that the President does have this authority.
I asked Mr. Gonzales whether U.S. personnel can legally engage in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under any circumstances. Mr. Gonzales's response was shocking. He claimed that it is legal for the U.S. government to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Specifically, he said, "There is no legal prohibition under the [Torture Convention] on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas." But cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment are expressly prohibited by the Torture Convention, a treaty that the U.S. has ratified and is bound to obey, not just by law but by the rule of conscience. In an editorial entitled, "A Degrading Policy," The Washington Post called Gonzales's position "a gross distortion of the law."
This explains why Mr. Gonzales and this administration opposed my anti-torture amendment to the intelligence reform bill. My amendment would simply have reaffirmed the U.S.'s long-standing obligation not to engage in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This is the law of the land.
But Mr. Gonzales claims that my amendment "would have provided legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled." I asked him what additional legal protections my amendment would have provided. Mr. Gonzales refused to respond.
Now we know the legal protections that Mr. Gonzales opposes: the long-standing prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.
I asked Mr. Gonzales about media reports that U.S. personnel have used abusive interrogation tactics such as simulated drowning, mock executions, threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity, forcing detainees to assume painful, contorted positions for extended periods of time, and the forcible injection of mood altering drugs. I gave Mr. Gonzales an opportunity to repudiate these tactics and to make clear that this administration will not tolerate such abuses.
He responded, as only a lawyer can, with a very carefully worded and ambiguous answer. He said, "Some of these activities, at least under certain factual assumptions, might very well be prohibited. Some might likewise be permissible in specific circumstances." What a pack of weasel words about torture techniques. Mr. Gonzales refuses to condemn un-American and degrading conduct that, frankly, shocks the conscience.
I also asked Mr. Gonzales about reports that the U.S. has "outsourced" torture by sending detainees to countries that systematically engage in torture. The Torture Convention prohibits a government from sending someone to a country if there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being tortured. As a party to the Torture Convention, we are bound to abide by this prohibition.
Mr. Gonzales responded with another very lawyerly answer. He said that "it is permissible in appropriate circumstances to rely on assurances from a country that it will not engage in torture, and such assurances can provide a basis for concluding that a person is not likely to be tortured if returned to another country."
Based on this reading of the law, the Administration has reportedly sent detainees to countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, which systematically engage in torture. These detainees have said publicly that they were in fact tortured after they were transferred to these countries. It is indefensible to send a detainee to a country that regularly uses torture on the basis of hollow assurances that it will not torture the detainee. Outsourcing torture is morally equivalent to engaging in torture.
The bottom line is this. Mr. Gonzales says he is opposed to torture, but he believes the President can invoke the Commander-in-Chief exception to set aside the torture statute; and he believes it is legally permissible to outsource torture.
He says it is Administration policy to treat detainees humanely, but he believes it is legally permissible to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; he opposes my anti-torture amendment, which would have reaffirmed the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and he refuses to condemn a host of abusive tactics such as mock execution and simulated drowning.
These are not the principles on which our nation is based.
America is a nation founded on the ideals of freedom and justice. We believe that no one is above the law, no one is outside the law, and no government official should ever be invested with the power, real or imagined, to ignore, bend or break the rule of law.
As our distinguished ranking member, the Senator from Vermont, has said, Mr. Gonzales's assertion that a President is free to break any law he regards as unconstitutional is as radical a definition of executive power as any of us has ever heard.
Twisting words to try to justify torture betrays a profound ignorance of, or indifference to, the history and character of our great nation.
America was founded by people fleeing governmental repression. Our founders wanted to ensure that the United States would not oppress its citizens -- even during time of war. That is why they included a prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution.
During the Civil War -- which some say were the darkest hours of our nation -- President Lincoln directed that a set of rules be drawn up to govern the conduct of U.S. soldiers. The new rules, called the Lieber Code, explicitly prohibited torture and other cruel treatment of enemy troops. They became the foundation for the modern law of war.
After World War II, the United States and our allies -- horrified by the genocidal practices of Nazi Germany -- created a new international legal order based on respect for human rights. One of the fundamental tenets was a universal prohibition on torture, as well as "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment."
The prohibition is enshrined today in three international treaties to which the United States and a majority of the nations in the world are parties: The Geneva Conventions, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Torture Convention.
The prohibition against torture and cruel treatment is also codified in the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.
If conscience is not reason enough to prohibit torture anywhere, for any reason, there are practical reasons to do so as well.
To begin with, torture is futile. Don't take my word for it. Refer to the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation. It states: "Use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."
Torture places our own military personnel -- they who are already in grave danger -- at even greater risk. Rejecting the use of torture, on the other hand, protects our troops.
Let me tell you about former Congressman Pete Peterson, who spent 6 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Pete is my friend. The moments when we sat down and discussed his experiences as a POW in Vietnam are moments that I will never forget. Here is what he wrote in a letter in support of my anti-torture amendment: "From my years of captivity in Vietnam, I know what life in a foreign prison is like. To a large degree, I credit the Geneva Conventions for my survival. This is one reason the United States has led the world in upholding treaties governing the status and care of enemy prisoners: because these standards also protect us. We need absolute clarity that America will continue to set the gold standard in the treatment of prisoners in wartime."
These are the words of Pete Peterson, a man who gave six years of his life as a prisoner of war, telling us not to forget the Geneva Conventions that protected him, as they should protect everyone. As the great American patriot Thomas Paine said: "He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression."
There is a third, practical reason to continue our long-standing commitment not to engage in torture or other cruel treatment. Resorting to torture will make it harder for us to defeat terrorism, not easier.
In the words of the independent 9/11 Commission, "Allegations that the United States abused prisoners in its custody make it harder to build the diplomatic, political, and military alliances the government will need [to fight the war on terrorism]."
Justice Louis Brandeis warned us nearly a century ago: "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning, but without understanding."
I believe that Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee, and those with whom they worked in secret to justify torture and circumvent our treaties and laws thought that they were somehow protecting our liberty.
Their "insidious encroachment" on our liberty and their disregard for one of our most fundamental principles, the rule of law, was not meant to hurt America. But it has hurt us badly. If I live a long life, I won't outlive the hatred and distrust of America created by those searing, awful images at Abu Ghraib.
That's why the nomination of Alberto Gonzales is opposed by retired military leaders like General John Shalikashvili, the former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Admiral Don Guter, who was the Navy Judge Advocate General for the first two years of the Bush Administration, and Rear Admiral John Hutson, another former Navy Judge Advocate General.
I worked closely with Admiral Hutson on my torture amendment. He served his country for close to 30 years and I have great respect for his judgment. So, I listened carefully when he testified before the Judiciary Committee in opposition to the nomination of Alberto Gonzales. He said:
"Advice given to the President by Judge Gonzales was not offered with an eye to protecting American troops . . . In both the short term and the long term, it doesn't protect our armed forces, it imperils them. It enables them to engage in the sort of reprehensible conduct we have seen, and it will enable our enemy to also engage in such conduct with impunity . . . The strongest nation on earth can ill afford an Attorney General who engages in sloppy, shortsighted legal analysis and doesn't object when others do."
I am also troubled by Mr. Gonzales's Texas record and what appears to me to be Mr. Gonzales's willingness, once again, to ignore serious legal and constitutional concerns -- even when a life is hanging in the balance.
Texas, as everyone knows, executes more inmates than any other State. As General Counsel for then-Governor Bush, it was Mr. Gonzales's duty to review every file for every request for clemency by death row prisoners in Texas and to make a recommendation to the Governor on the appropriate action.
Mr. Gonzales coordinated 59 clemency requests from Texas death-row inmates between 1995 and 1997.
I asked Mr. Gonzales: Of the 59 clemency cases he coordinated, how many times did he either recommend clemency, a stay of execution, or further investigation to resolve any doubts about a condemned inmate's guilt? He replied that he could not recall what advice he may have given then-Governor Bush on any of the 59 cases.
He also said he never once recommended clemency because he believed that he and the Governor were obligated to follow the recommendations of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Relying so heavily on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles might not be troubling if the board's record itself was not so troubling. Between 1973 and 1998, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles received more than 70 appeals of clemency denials. In all those cases, the board never once -- not one time -- ordered an investigation or held a hearing or even conducted a meeting to try to resolve any possible doubts about a case.
In fact, according to a 1998 civil suit, some board members do not even review case files or skim correspondence they are required to read before voting on clemency petitions. U.S. District Court Judge Sam Sparks, who presided over that lawsuit, found, in his words:
There is nothing, absolutely nothing -- that the Board of Pardons and Paroles does where any member of the public, including the Governor, can find out why they did this. I find that appalling.
Typically, Mr. Gonzales presented a clemency memo to Governor Bush on the day that the inmate was scheduled to be executed. Mr. Gonzales would spend about 30 minutes at some point during the day briefing the Governor before this person was led to execution -- 30 minutes.
Let me tell you about 2 of the 59 people whose clemency requests Mr. Gonzales handled.
Irineo Tristan Montoya was a Mexican national executed in 1997. In 1986, in police custody, Mr. Montoya signed what he thought was an immigration document. In fact, it was a murder confession. Mr. Montoya could not read a word of it. He spoke no English.
Under the Vienna Convention of Consular Affairs, which the U.S. ratified in 1969 and accepted as our law of the land, Mr. Montoya should have at least been told that he had the right to have a Mexican consular officer contacted on his behalf. He was never informed of this right.
Mr. Gonzales's clemency memo mentioned none of these facts -- not one. News accounts say Mr. Montoya was convicted almost entirely on the strength of this confession, a confession which he signed that he could not read or understand.
Then there is the case of Carl Johnson. It has become infamous. Mr. Gonzales's memo on Mr. Johnson's clemency request neglected to mention that Mr. Johnson's lawyer had literally slept through much of the jury selection.
Mr. Gonzales claims that omission of critical facts such as these do not matter because "it was quite common that I would have numerous discussions with the Governor well in advance of a scheduled execution."
However, Governor Bush's logs generally show one, and only one, 30-minute meeting for each execution. Thirty minutes for each life. And that meeting generally took place on the scheduled day of the execution.
At the Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Gonzales said: If I were in talking to the Governor about a particular matter and we had an opportunity, I would say, "Governor, we have an execution coming up in 3 weeks. One of the bases of clemency I'm sure that will be argued is, say, something like mental retardation. These are the issues that have to be considered."
The Texas death house was a busy place when Mr. Gonzales was general counsel. In the 6 days from December 6 to December 12, 1995, for example, there were four executions. In the 9 days from May 13 to May 22, 1997, there were six executions. In the 8 days from May 28 to June 4, 1997, there were five executions. In the week from June 11 to June 18, 1997, there were four executions. And during one 5-week period from May 13 to June 18, 1997, in the State of Texas, there were 15 executions.
Even if Mr. Gonzales found an opportunity, as he says, to mention critical details of upcoming executions during meetings on other topics, is that an appropriate or sufficient way to provide a Governor with information he needs to make a life-or-death decision?
Did Mr. Gonzales really expect the Governor to be able to keep track of these details that were discussed weeks in advance of a decision on clemency? Is that reasonable when a person's life is hanging in the balance?
Regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, no one -- absolutely no one -- wants to see an innocent person executed. That is not justice.
Over 2,000 years ago, Roman orator Cicero said: Laws are silent in time of war. The men and women who founded this great Nation rejected that notion. They understood that freedom and liberty are not weaknesses; they are, in fact, our greatest strengths.
In times of war or perceived threat, we have sometimes forgotten that basic truth. And when we have, we have paid dearly for it.
In the late 1700s, a war with France seemed imminent. Congress responded by passing the Alien and Sedition Acts. These patently unconstitutional laws empowered the President to detain and deport any non-citizen with no due process and made it illegal to publish supposedly "scandalous and malicious writing" about our Government.
President Lincoln, whom I regard as the greatest of all American Presidents, suspended the great writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War.
The first red scare during World War I accelerated into the Palmer raids after a series of bombings on Wall Street and in Washington, DC. Palmer, the U.S. Attorney, ordered roundups of suspected "reds" and summarily deported thousands of aliens, often with little evidence of wrongdoing and no due process.
We all know the tragic story of Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry being rounded up and placed in internment camps during World War II.
Another moment that I recall, as I stand here today, is when I served in the House of Representatives and heard two of my colleagues who were Congressmen at the time, Japanese Americans, come forward to explain what happened to them, how they were literally told the night before in their homes in California by their parents to pack up their little belongings, put them in a suitcase, and be prepared to get on a train in the morning. Bob Matsui was one of those. He just passed away a few weeks ago.
Bob Matsui understood what discrimination could really be. What was his sin? He was born of Japanese American parents. That is a fact of life, and it was a fact that changed his life dramatically. He and others were taken off to internment camps without a trial, without a hearing, simply because they were suspected of being unpatriotic.
During the Cold War, our Nation, fearful of communism, descended into a red scare of McCarthyism, witch hunts, and black lists that destroyed the lives of thousands of decent people.
In the 1960s, the Government infiltrated many organizations and compiled files on its own citizens simply for attending meetings of civil rights or antiwar organizations.
Some on the other side of the aisle have compared Mr. Gonzales to one of our great Attorneys General, Robert Kennedy. With all due respect to Mr. Gonzales, he is no Robert Kennedy. Unlike Mr. Gonzales, Robert Kennedy understood the importance of respecting the rule of law to America's soul and our image around the world.
Listen to this quote from a speech that Robert Kennedy gave at the height of the Cold War and the civil rights movement. This is what he said:
"We, the American people, must avoid another Little Rock or another New Orleans. We cannot afford them. It is not only that such incidents do incalculable harm to the children involved and to the relations among people, it is not only that such convulsions seriously undermine respect for law and order and cause serious economic and moral damage. Such incidents hurt our country in the eyes of the world. For on this generation of Americans falls the burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created equal and are equal before the law."
Those were the words of Robert Kennedy, and if you replace Little Rock and New Orleans with Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, those words ring true today. Mr. Gonzales does not seem to understand, as Robert Kennedy did, the impact such scandals have on America's soul and image.
Today is a critical moment for our Nation. Overseas, our Nation's actions and character are being questioned by our critics and our enemies. Here at home, we want to feel safer and more secure.
There are some who want to repeat the mistakes of our past. They think the best way to protect America is to silence the law in this time of war.
Let me tell you about one man who disagrees. His name is Fred Korematsu. More than 60 years ago, Mr. Korematsu was a 22-year-old student and was one of the 120,000 Japanese-American citizens and immigrants who was forced from their homes into these prison camps, internment camps.
After Pearl Harbor, Mr. Korematsu tried everything he could think of to be accepted as American. He changed his name to Clyde, and even had two operations to make his eyes appear rounder. He was still forced into Tule Lake, an internment camp in California.
He challenged his detention, taking his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a decision that remains one of the most infamous decisions in the Court's history, the Supreme Court rejected Mr. Korematsu's claim and failed to find the internment of Japanese Americans unconstitutional.
It would be another 40 years until an American President, Ronald Reagan, officially apologized for that terrible miscarriage of justice and offered small restitution to its victims.
Today, Mr. Korematsu is nearly 85 years old. He is recovering from a serious illness, but he still loves America and is deeply concerned that we not again abandon our most cherished principles and values. So he has raised his voice, warning his fellow Americans we should not repeat the mistakes of the past.
I respect and admire Alberto Gonzales for his inspiring life story and the many obstacles he has overcome. Some of my colleagues suggested his life story embodies the American dream. But there is more to the American dream than overcoming difficult circumstances to obtain prominence and prosperity. We also must honor Fred Korematsu's dream that our country be true to the fundamental principle upon which it was founded: the rule of law.
Some of my colleagues have suggested that the opposition to Alberto Gonzales's nomination is all about partisan politics. That could not be further from the truth. This is about our ability to win the war on terrorism while respecting the values that our Nation represents.
I cannot in good conscience vote to reward a man who ignored the rule of law and the demands of human decency and created the permissive environment that made Abu Ghraib possible.
When the history of these times are recorded, I believe that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo will join the names of infamous Japanese-American internment camps such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain, and Tule Lake where Fred Korematsu and over thousands of others were detained. I cannot in good conscience vote to make the author of such a terrible mistake the chief law enforcement officer of our great Nation and the guardian of our God-given and most cherished rights.
So, Mr. President, I will vote no on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to serve as Attorney General of the United States. I yield the floor.