Alberto Gonzales on Homeland Security
I met with the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to explain to him why I thought it was so irresponsible to write a hypothetical opinion that way--and immediately saw the difference between the Attorney General I knew and respected, John Ashcroft, and his replacement. Wearily, Gonzalez complained that the vice president was putting enormous pressure on him and that Cheney had even prompted the president to ask when the opinions would be ready. I said that I understood the pressure, but there were no prototypical interrogations.
"To be considered torture, techniques must produce lasting psychological damage or suffering 'equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.' "
-- Justice Dept. memo, 1/9/02
"Geneva does not apply to our conflict with al-Qaeda; al-Qaeda detainees also do not qualify as prisoners of war."
--George W. Bush, memo, 2/7/02
"I stand 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"
--Donal Rumsfeld, on an interrogation technique memo, 2002
"Congress doesn't have the power to tie the president's hands in regard to torture as an interrogation technique. They can't prevent the president from ordering torture."
--Justice Dept. memo, 2005
Quoting America's new attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, the policy "places a high premium on the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." He justifies an extension of the program permitting CIA agents to deal with suspects in foreign prison sites by claiming that the ban of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment does not apply to American interrogations of foreigners overseas.
A word of caution here. This remains a highly classified program. It remains an important tool in protecting America. So my remarks today speak only to those activities confirmed publicly by the President, and not to other purported activities described in press reports. These press accounts are in almost every case misinformed, confusing, or wrong. And unfortunately, they have caused concern over the potential breadth of what the President has actually authorized.
Gonzales told George W. Bush that in denying “detainees”--many of them now held at Guantanamo for nearly three years without charges--prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions, the president didn’t have to worry about being held accountable by the courts. As commander in chief, his actions were unreviewable.
Said the Supreme Court, in June, concerning the accuracy of the advice from the next attorney general of the United States about deep-sixing US citizens, “We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of [American] citizens.” And the Court also ruled he was wrong about the noncitizen prisoners at Guant namo.
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