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  2005-02-02 Feinstein/ Boxer —Gonzales
Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


Keeping up with Jewish officeholders
Boxer, Feinstein, say Gonzales
fails 'torture' test; urge 'no' vote
,  Feb. 2, 2005

California's two Jewish senators—Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein—both announced their reasons Tuesday, Feb. 1,  for opposing the confirmation of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General of the United States. Gonzales' attitude toward torture topped their list.

"Mr. Gonzales was the legal architect of this Administration’s policies on torture and the treatment of detainees– policies that resulted in the despicable torture of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo," Boxer said. "The vast majority of these prisoners were never charged with any crime, and even our own State Department had grave misgivings about redefining our torture policy.

"The torture policies that Mr. Gonzales pursued on behalf of the Administration have done immeasurable damage to America’s standing in the world, have undermined our military rules and traditions, and exposed our own soldiers and citizens to greater risks," Boxer said. "In addition, Mr. Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions 'obsolete' and 'quaint.' The Geneva Conventions have protected our soldiers since 1949. This attack on the Geneva Conventions should not be condoned with a yes vote on this nomination."

Feinstein said "If there is a single issue that defines this confirmation process, it is what Judge Gonzales thinks about torture and brutal interrogation practices. He reminded us again and again that both he and the President condemn torture. But as we know from the Bybee memo of August 2002, for at least two years, the Federal Government followed a definition of torture that was excessively narrow. In fact, it was considered so incorrect that the Department of Justice revoked it on the eve of Judge Gonzales’ hearing. 

"That memo defined torture as: ‘Equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.’ 

"For me, in addition to its clear legal and moral importance, the issue of torture became the main way for assessing this next Attorney General. And it was very important for him to state in unambiguous terms what he thought. It was as important a way for us to assess how he approaches a problem as any. 

"In his opening statement, Judge Gonzales offered a clear, absolute condemnation of torture. He said flatly: ‘Torture and abuse will not be tolerated by this administration.’ 

"At this point, at the beginning of his testimony, there were no ifs, ands, or buts. But after that, his testimony, both verbal and in writing, was full of ambiguities. It seemed intended not to make his views clear, but to shield his views, and it seemed to narrow the definition of what counts as torture."                        
Donald H. Harrison