A few weeks ago in this space, I wrote about the more than two dozen civil rights and human rights groups who had raised what they called ‘serious concerns’ over President Bush’s nomination of Alberto Gonzales to replace John Ashcroft as Attorney General.
Since that time, the opposition to Gonzales’s appointment has picked up steam, particularly as more information comes out about the nominee’s efforts to support the White House in its attempts to override both US law and the Geneva Conventions on torture.
As the Washington Post reported today in a front-page story, in March of 2002, the CIA asked for a legal review–the first ever by the government–of how much pain a US intelligence officer could inflict on a prisoner without violating US law outlawing torture of detainees. “White House counsel Gonzales chaired the meetings on this issue, which included detailed descriptions of interrogation techniques such as ‘waterboarding,’ a tactic intended to make detainees feel as if they are drowning.” As R. Jeffrey Smith and Dan Eggen continue, Gonzales “raised no objections and without consulting military and State Department experts in the laws of torture and war, approved an August 2002 memo that gave CIA interrogators the legal blessings they sought.”
Subsequently, Gonzales ignored the objections of State Department and military lawyers and strongly endorsed the determination of Justice Department lawyers that neither the Geneva Convention nor corresponding US laws on prisoner protections should be applied in the “war on terror.”
Revelations like these have generated widespread opposition to what most considered an easy confirmation battle. Joining a host of liberal groups opposing the nomination, a dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the rare step on Monday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing “deep concern” over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general.
They understand, as Robert Scheer makes clear in his syndicated weekly column, that what’s at stake with the nomination is whether Congress wants to absolve Gonzales of his attempt to have the President subvert US law in order to whitewash barbaric practices performed by US interrogators in the name of national security.
Gonzales’s Senate hearings begin tomorrow. Please click here to send a letter to Senators Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter, the co-chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee who will be leading the hearings, asking them to make sure the nominee receives a thorough vetting.
And read and circulate David Cole’s December 6, 2004 Nation magazine editorial making clear why Gonzales is the wrong choice.
There are also numerous other activist resources online courtesy of some of America’s most steadfast progressive advocacy groups. Human Rights First launched a new website devoted to ending torture and is publishing a special blog by Avi Cover directly from the hearings all day on Thursday. The Center for American Progress has produced a set of ten questions Gonzales should be asked during his hearings. People for the American Way has published a review of Gonzales’s repeated failures as a public official to meet the standards that should be expected of the nation’s highest law enforcement officer. The Alliance for Justice has released a detailed lawyer’s letter critical of the nominee and the Center for Constitutional Rights–which has represented many of the victims of US abuse–is forcefully urging all Americans concerned over the use of torture to oppose the nomination.
As Scheer concludes his column this week, “to make a man with so little respect for both the spirit and the letter of the law the nation’s top law enforcement official would be a terrible advertisement for American democracy.”
So join the protests today.