Alberto Gonzales Testimony, Part IV
(Image via Twolf1. Alternate image via Cozumel: Texas Toast, the continuing saga…)
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is set to testify today before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Testimony will begin at 9:30 am ET — and will be covered live on C-Span3. I’ll try to liveblog to the best of my ability this morning as the hearing moves forward — but that requires a little cooperation from all of you. Please, for the love of the servers and the sanityof your iveblogger — hold comments to a minimum. And cut the one-liners at the start of the thread altogether. Thanks.
SEN. DURBIN QUESTIONS CONTINUED: Do you have any idea how you make the United States look by failing to completely answer these questions? Would it be legal for a foreign government to subject a US citizen to subject any of the interrogation techniques that we just talked about? Gonzales stalls in answering and stammers quite a bit. “We obviously would demand humane treatment of American citizens in accordance to the laws.” Do you believe that these techniques would be outside the norms of international law? Gonzales recuses himself from answering. Durbin calls him on it — you recuse yourself any time you are asked a question you don’t want to answer because it might make you look bad. Do you have any idea how this weaseling refusal to answer this makes the US look to other nations in terms of human rights and international law? Your ambiguity, you personally and this Administration, whether through signing statements or memos, are trying to leave just the sort of loopholes for conduct which we condemn from others around the world. [CHS notes: Go Durbin!]
Can you explain to me how five years after the Guantanimo prison was opened, there is yet to have a single conviction? Gonzales blames the lawyers who represent the inmates and the legal process. Durbin says that he suggested that 5 years ago that he and Specter tried to create a legal framework that would have allowed for streamlined legal process and you rejected it wholesale — and your conduct since then has wasted years and simply proved Sen. Durbin’s point.
SEN. FEINGOLD QUESTIONS: I am about to introduce a censure resolution against the President for his illegal conduct. As you probably know, I am a member of the Intelligence committee and I have had an opportunity to review the classified matters at issue here today — and I think that your testimony here today has been misleading at best as to the circumstances. As you know, I am prevented by law from elaborating further, but I intend to send you a classified letter which details all of the reasons why that is. Gonzales then accuses Feingold of not understanding what was going on in the intel committee. Feingold says that he’s appalled by Gonzales attempt to shift responsibility for the NSA domestic spying program onto Ashcroft. Also, limiting the briefing on this program to the Gang of Eight violates the Security Act. And, finally, you are the one that tried to take advantageof AG Ashcroft while he was in the ICU.
Feingold goes through all of the misstatements made by Gonzales under oath. When you look at all of your misstatements together, what I see is a pattern of conduct which was an intentional attempt to mislead Congress again and again. Shouldnt the head of the DOJ be held to a higher standard than that? Gonzales says where he’s made mistakes, he’s tried to correct the record and do better.
Do you agree that the potential liability for companies for failing to follow the privacy laws is an important part of the enforcement scheme of our privacy laws? As a general matter, yes.
SEN. KENNEDY QUESTIONS: Did you preview the President’s executive order on torture recently? Yes. Were their documents prepared to that end on review? Gonzales hesitates to answer and stammers. Kennedy asks that he get back to the committee with said documents. Goes on to talk about prohibition on activities outside the bounds of decency and humanity “such as sexual and indecent acts undertaken for the purposes of humiliation,” “threatening the individual with sexual mutilation,” “denegration of religious practices,” etc. If those are prohibited, why aren’t you willing to prohibit all of the activities which have been identified as improper? Gonzales says obviously some activities are beyond the pale and other activities are not so clear — so I can’t talk about them in open session. Kennedy says that he is basically saying that the activities in the Exec. Order are expressly prohibited, but the other activities don’t rise to the importance that they were listable as prohibited — so they may not be prohibited. Gonzales says that he’s not saying they aren’t, but it will be determined based on parameters in the executive order and by the Director of the CIA.
McConnell was on MtP and would not comment on these. Is it lawful to leave torture hanging out there as a threat? Gonzales says we aren’t engagng in torture. Kennedy makes the point that there is a question of extreme psychological harm.
Let’s go to another issue: diplomats receive political briefings at the Peace Corps. We’ve already had some fifteen government agencies briefed by Karl Rove’s political office on targeting Democrats for defeat prior to the election. Did you get these sorts of briefings at the DOJ? Gonzales says not that he knows of. [CHS notes: well, that’s really reassuring, isn’t it?] Kennedy asks him to look into whether these briefings violated the Hatch Act.
About the civil rights division cases — the Bush Administration has filed only two cases based on race discrimination and voting rights, and then it took until 2006 for these to be filed. Do you think this reflects accurately what is going on in terms of discrimination in the US? Gonzales says no, he doesn’t, and he thinks the person from the DOJ who testified about the civil rights division cases was wrong.
SEN. LEAHY QUESTIONS: When Monica Goodling testified under oath, she said she crossed the line on hiring career personnel for political screening for career hires, including for Assistant USAttys? Were you aware that she was doing this? Gonzales says he doesn’t recall being aware of that. Were other officials at the WH aware that she was doing that? Not that Gonzales is aware of knowing about. [CHS notes: Good lord, that’s a hedgy little answer, isn’t it?] “I can’t recall being aware of instances where she may have asked improper questions.” Do you ever consider political affiliation, organizational involvement, and other partisan qualifications for career hires that are not to be politicized? No. And we’ve changed our policy internally, but he doesn’t know if they’ve communicated to the WH that this is not appropriate hiring criteria for career hires at DOJ.
On May 23rd, Goodling testified under oath that she had an uncomfortable conversation with her before she left the Department. You said you did not talk to her about the matters before the committee. Gonzales says that he did have that conversation with her — trying to “console an emotionally distraught woman.” She came into his office and she was emotionally distraught…Leahy says that we sent you written questions, and in no way did you ever indicate that you ever had this conversation. Your testimony is now that you did have this conversation that you failed to tell us about previously? Gonzales says that as far as he knew nothing improper or illegal had happened here. He wants to put it “in context.” [CHS notes: This is the second time the “in context” malarky has come up. Seems to me he uses this dodge and phony show tactic to filibuster having to answer the question — and it’s a bit of a tell as to where he’s hiding something from the committee.]
There have been 260 applications, you have approved only 14 claims, and denied 40-plus others. Denied benefits to a US Forest Service firefighter in AZ who was working to contain a fire, and your department couldn’t determine whether he was engaged in “strenuous activity” when he had his heart attack. I don’t know what you consider strenuous activity, but trying to stop a fire is a bit strenuous…this is picayune, and it is wrong to do this to the families of some very brave people. What are you going to do to clear that up? Gonzales says that it has taken too long, blames the drafting of the regulations and the bureaucracy taking too much time to process claims.
SEN. SPECTER QUESTIONS: Does the DAG have the authority to appoint a special counsel to prosecute contempt proceedings — and it would be his authority, and his alone to make that decision? Yes. [CHS notes: Holy crap, I think Specter just issued a shot across the WH bow…excellent.] On to NSA programs. Gonzales says he can’t answer it outside a classified setting. Specter says that he should review the transcript very carefully and, candidly, he doesn’t find Gonzales’ testimony very credible. It strains credulity that you would go to Ashcroft’s ICU room for anything other than this classified program — the man was under sedation. All of the attendant circumstances are that we’re dealing with the Terrorist Surveillance Program. I suggest you review your testimony very carefully — your credibility may be breached to the point of being actionable.
I asked you about the case involving Charlton. Are you aware that the defendant for whom you were seeking the death penalty that the testimony against him was mostly from drug dealers and addicts. Gonzales gives Specter (a former prosecutor) on what is appropriate for public discussion about these sorts of things and essentially accuses Specter of undermining the government by doing so. Specter lets him have it for not taking his freaking job seriously — that five to ten minutes is appalling and that Gonzales sucks at his job. [CHS notes: I’m paraphrasing here, but Specter is pissed.]
Let me cover another subject briefly — that of oxycontin. Your department entered into a plea agreement with the producer of the drug. Their actions, knowing that there were problems with the drug, constitutes a reckless disregard for human life and that they deliberately misled the public to sell a product — which would be potential prosecution for murder in the second degree — this supports a finding of malice. Why would you simply enter into a plea for the payment of a fine? Gonzales says that it would have been too hard to show intent or malice of the corporate executives, and that he took advantage of the statute passed by COngress to hold them accountable without having to show intent. How many deaths were there? Did you review this case? Gonzales said he wasn’t involved in reviewing this case.
Voting, but gavel goes to Sen. Whitehouse, who has already voted.
Am going to have to start another thread because the comment volume has started to drag the servers…