Attorney General Approved Despite Abuse Concerns
Reuters | January 26, 2005
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A divided Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved Alberto Gonzales as U.S. attorney general, rejecting Democratic complaints about his role in formulating administration policies blamed for contributing to the torture of detainees.
On a party-line vote of 10-8, the Republican-led panel sent President Bush's nomination of Gonzales to become the nation's highest ranking lawman to the full Senate for anticipated confirmation, possibly as early as next week.
Gonzales, Bush's White House counsel the past four years, would replace John Ashcroft, who submitted his resignation after Bush was elected to a second term in November.
The partisan battle over the Gonzales nomination has focused largely on an Aug. 1, 2002 memo he approved that stated only the most severe types of torture were not permissible under U.S. and international agreements. The memo was withdrawn after a public outcry.
Gonzales has also drawn fire for writing in January 2002 that parts of the half-century-old Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war were "obsolete" and "quaint."
At a Jan. 6 confirmation hearing, Gonzales denounced torture and vowed if confirmed as attorney general to abide by international treaties on treatment of prisoners.
Yet Gonzales prompted further criticism with responses to a follow-up written questions, including his belief that the United States may technically have the right to indefinitely hold foreigners in secret locations overseas and subject them to abusive treatment.
TORTURE IS "UNLAWFUL"
Gonzales also wrote, however, that any torture by American personnel would be unlawful.
"As the president has made clear, the United States will not engage in torture and U.S. personnel are prohibited from doing so," Gonzales declared.
At the White House on Wednesday, Bush made another pitch for his embattled nominee, calling on the Senate "to promptly act and confirm Judge Al Gonzales."
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee argued that Bush deserves to have who he wants as attorney general. Gonzales would be the first Hispanic-American to hold the post.
Senate Republicans described Gonzales, a former Texas Supreme Court justice, as a skilled lawyer and American success story, one who rose from a humble beginning.
"He is a man of decency, integrity and honor who answered the questions before the committee as well as he could," Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican. "He deserves to be confirmed."
Yet Democrats ripped into Gonzales for administration detention policies drafted after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
These policies have been blamed for contributing to abuse of detainees captured in the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"When President Bush announced this nomination he said that he chose Judge Gonzales because of his 'sound judgment' and role in shaping the administration's policies in the war on terrorism," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.
Yet, Leahy charged, "Judge Gonzales has championed policies that are in fundamental conflict with decades of our laws, sound military practice, international law and human rights."
Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, complained that Gonzales was less than forthcoming to the committee.
"We have a torture problem. The FBI says so. The Red Cross says so. The Defense Intelligence Agency says so," Kennedy said.
"Additional allegations of abuse are being reported on a daily basis. Yet Mr. Gonzales can't remember any details of how it happened," Kennedy said.
AG-nominee Backs Semi-auto Ban
Gonzales tells Senate he supports gun control
Gun Owners of America | January 25, 2005
Testifying before the U.S. Senate last week, Alberto Gonzales announced he supports President Bush's position on the semi-auto ban.
"The president has made it clear that he stands ready to sign a reauthorization of the federal assault weapons ban if it is sent to him by Congress," Gonzales said. "I, of course, support the president on this issue."
While some might be tempted to give Gonzales a "pass" since he was parroting his boss' position, Gonzales went even further, indicating that gun control was a heart-felt position of his own.
He spoke of his brother, who is a Houston SWAT officer, and said, "I worry about his safety and the types of weapons he will confront on the street." Hence, he supports a prohibition on semi-automatics that, in truth, only amounts to a ban on ugly guns.
GOA activists are certainly aware of the fact that President Bush has repeatedly trumpeted his support for the Clinton semi-auto ban which expired last September. But every time Bush has opened his mouth on this issue, GOA activists have led the way in bombarding the White House.
And that is why it is VERY important that gun rights supporters take the President to the "political woodshed" once again. No, we probably won't change his mind on this issue. But if we barrage his office with phone calls, faxes and e-mails, it is very possible that we will increase his reluctance to push the ban.
Most likely, our stiff opposition in the past has already accomplished this. A frequent complaint during the campaign last year was that Bush was doing very little to press Congressional Republicans to send him gun ban legislation.
Remember the third presidential debate last year? Bush was asked, "You said if Congress would vote to extend the ban on assault weapons, that you'd sign the legislation, but you did nothing to encourage Congress to extend it."
Yes, maybe Bush was trying to have it both ways. But your outspoken opposition to the ban has certainly not hurt our efforts to restrain the President from pushing it.
So please make sure you contact President Bush. While some might think that an anti-gun Attorney General is limited in the amount of damage he can inflict upon the Second Amendment, we can be sure that his position on critical court cases could affect our gun rights for generations to come.
Remember that it was former Attorney General, John Ashcroft, who opposed us on the important Emerson case that came before the Supreme Court not too long ago. A Fifth Circuit District Court had initially ruled in favor of Second Amendment rights, arguing that a federal gun statute was unconstitutional -- the law disarmed citizens who were not guilty of any crime or had not been convicted by any jury. After the Appeals Court reversed the decision, Dr. Emerson appealed to the Supreme Court.
While the Supremes refused to hear the case, gun owners did not fail notice that General Ashcroft was in full support of how the Emerson case was ultimately decided -- thus, putting him in total support of the federal gun restrictions.
Not only that, but the Ashcroft-led Justice Department also opposed gun owners in the Silveira semi-auto ban case and the Lamar Bean case.
All of this to say, it is imperative that we speak out once again -- if for no other reason than to remind President Bush there are millions of gun owners that he, and his party, cannot afford to take for granted.
ACTION: Please contact President Bush and express your outrage that he would nominate an Attorney General who supports a federal ban on semi-automatic firearms.
You can visit the Gun Owners Legislative Action Center at http://www.gunowners.org/activism.htm to send a pre-written e-mail message to President Bush. To call or snail mail the President regarding the semi-auto ban, you can use the following contact info:
President George Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Fax: 202-456-2461 or 202-456-1907
----- Pre-written letter -----
Dear President Bush:
I am very disappointed that you would nominate an anti-gun Attorney General such as Alberto Gonzales. He supports the Clinton ban on semi-automatic firearms, and I think that's a travesty.
Please realize that you were reelected President, in large part, because gun owners opposed the cockeyed positions of your opponent. I would expect to see a bigger difference between the two of you when it comes to Second Amendment issues.
In the future, I hope you will use the Second Amendment as a litmus test in nominating candidates who oppose gun control when filling important administrative and judicial positions.