December 17, 2004
Questions for Alberto Gonzales, Nominee for Attorney General
If you are concerned about Alberto Gonzales's qualifications for the role of U.S. Attorney General, please check the list of Senate Judiciary Committee members below. If a Senator from your state is listed, please call his or her office and suggest questions you would like your Senator to ask the nominee. Feel free to use or adapt BORDC's sample questions below. If neither of your Senators is on the committee, please call them and ask them to pose your questions to the Judiciary Committee. For contact information, go to http://www.congress.org/.
In light of Congress's upcoming holiday recess, we advise you to pose your questions to your Senator's office via phone or fax no later than Wednesday, December 22, 2004.
Senate Judiciary Committee members:
Alabama: Jeff Sessions, (202) 224-4124
Arizona: Jon Kyl, (202) 224-4521
California: Dianne Feinstein, (202) 224-3841
Delaware: Joseph R. Biden, Jr., (202) 224-5042
Georgia: Saxby Chambliss, (202) 224-3521
Idaho: Larry Craig, (202) 224-2752
Illinois: Richard J. Durbin, (202) 224-2152
Iowa: Charles E. Grassley, (202) 224-3744
Massachusetts: Edward M. Kennedy, (202) 224-4543
North Carolina: John Edwards, (202) 224-3154
New York: Charles E. Schumer, (202) 224-6542
Ohio: Mike DeWine, (202) 224-2315
Pennsylvania: Arlen Specter, (202) 224-4254
South Carolina: Lindsey Graham, (202) 224-5972
Texas: John Cornyn, (202) 224-2934
Utah: Orrin G. Hatch, (202) 224-5251
Vermont: Patrick J. Leahy, (202) 224-4242
Wisconsin: Russell D. Feingold, (202) 224-5323
As White House Chief Counsel, your work included considering whether international laws such as the Geneva Conventions and the international Convention Against the Use of Torture applied to the President, and you concluded they did not apply. If you had been the Attorney General rather than White House Counsel, would you have come to different conclusions?
In condoning the use of torture in interrogations, why did you choose to keep your recommendation secret from military leaders and from Congress?
Many Americans believe that the United States' system of justice must set an example for countries with poor human rights records. How do you believe your reinterpretation of international laws against torture will affect the example we set?
You also advised the President that he had the right to hold U.S. citizens and foreign nationals indefinitely as "enemy combatants," without charge or access to the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned that authority last summer. Do you believe the Court was wrong in its decision?
Former U.S. enemy combatant Yaser Esam Hamdi was held in solitary confinement for nearly three years without being charged. He was returned to Saudi Arabia after agreeing not to sue the U.S. government for his treatment. Do you believe his designation as an "enemy combatant" was just? If not, should he have been given access to a court?
Why did you determine that military tribunals, rather than courts martial, were the appropriate procedure to try detainees being held at the Guantánamo Bay prison? Military defense attorneys have condemned the proceedings as unfair. Please explain your position.
Government Oversight and Accountability
One of the principal laws giving citizens a check against unnecessary government secrecy is the Freedom of Information Act, under which all federal agencies are generally required to disclose records requested in writing by any person. In 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft issued a memo to agency heads encouraging their agencies to find ways to withhold "sensitive but nonclassified" information that is not protected under FOIA exemption #1. Do you believe this policy serves the public? If not, what changes do you plan to make to this policy?
The current Attorney General has refused many Judiciary Committee requests for meetings. If confirmed, under what circumstances would you be available to meet with our committee?
Millions of Americans have expressed concern about the government’s growing powers of surveillance and its extensive use of secrecy, such as the weakening of laws that formerly limited FISA use to “agents of a foreign power.” They fear that increased government power and decreased accountability increases the likelihood that their rights and liberties will be violated. Four state legislatures and 363 local and county governments with a combined population of 56 million people have passed resolutions or ordinances critical of laws and policies such as parts of the USA PATRIOT Act that they see as encroaching on their constitutional rights. What steps will you take to address their concerns?
Written into the USA PATRIOT Act and other laws are provisions that the DOJ is to report to this and other congressional committees periodically on its use of certain sections. The DOJ has not always complied with these laws on a timely basis. How do you view Congress's oversight responsibility for laws and policies pertaining to DOJ actions? What steps will you take to put your view into practice?
Within the DOJ, in the last few years, whistleblowers who have come forward to report system failures before or after the September 11th attacks have been silenced in various ways, including the classification by the current Attorney General of their testimony. How will whistleblowers be treated in your administration?
Many people have attributed your nomination for Attorney General to reflect your loyalty to President Bush. Will you continue that loyalty to the President as Attorney General? How might your current close relationship to the President change? What conflicts of interest may require you to recuse yourself?
Having served as Counsel to the President, do you believe you are qualified to take over as Attorney General? Are there recommendations or decisions you have made in your current role that you would reverse as Attorney General?
In light of your past support for torture and detentions without charges—in other words, that laws are open to interpretation and selective enforcement--how can you now assure the American people that the DOJ under your leadership will stand for the principle of “blind justice”?