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A Call on President Bush to Select New AG Who Respects the Constitution

by Ralph Nader

President George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush,

As you evaluate candidates to replace Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General it would be appropriate for you to consider all the things Mr. Gonzales has done that have tarnished the reputation of the Justice Department and undermined the rule of law in our country. Mr. Gonzales will be spared from impeachment because of his resignation, but repairing the damage he has done to the integrity of the Justice Department can only begin if you rise above partisan and personal considerations in selecting his replacement. First and foremost, the next Attorney General must truly embrace the importance of the Constitution and the rights it establishes for the citizenry and the responsibilities it imposes on government employees.

The oath of office taken by Attorney General Gonzales and previous Attorneys General reads:

"I, (Name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God." 5 U.S.C. §3331

When Mr. Gonzales was installed as the eightieth Attorney General of the United States on February 14, 2005, he said, "So, I rise today to reassure you that I understand the special role of this office, and to commit to do my best on behalf of the American people to fulfill the confidence and trust reflected in my appointment." Unfortunately, Mr. Gonzales has shattered the trust and confidence that the citizens of the United States have in the Justice Department.

Mr. Gonzales repeatedly misled Congress -- and the American people -- and likely perjured himself, in seeking to cover up an astonishing array of policies and practices that contravened the Justice Department's historic independence, violated core Constitutional protections and authorized violations of fundamental international proscriptions against torture and abuse. And, in his role as Attorney General and previously as White House Counsel, he played an instrumental role in advancing policies that shredded longstanding American civil liberties and human rights protections.

After reviewing the following questions and comments, even you might be willing to concede that Mr. Gonzales has shamed the Justice Department and darkened our country's reputation.

1. Did Mr. Gonzales mislead Congress about his role in the firing of federal prosecutors?

Mr. Gonzales insisted that each of the attorneys had been fired for "performance" reasons and stated that, "I would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons or if it would in any way jeopardize an ongoing serious investigation. I just would not do it."1

The New York Times reported six of the eight prosecutors had, however, recently received good performance reviews between 2003 and 2006.2

Mr. Gonzales testified that "this focus has been on the eight United States attorneys that were asked to resign last December 7th and June 14th."3

Published reports, however, show that D. Kyle Sampson, then Attorney General Gonzales's chief of staff, considered more than two dozen U.S. attorneys for termination, according to lists compiled by him and his colleagues.4

2. Did Mr. Gonzales mislead Congress about whether the President could authorize warrantless wiretapping?

Mr. Gonzales said that "It is not the policy or the agenda of this president to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes."5

The Washington Post reported, "In fact, the president did secretly authorize the National Security Agency to begin warrantless monitoring of calls and e-mails between the United States..."6

3. Did Mr. Gonzales mislead Congress on April 27, 2005, when he testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that "The track record established over the past three years has demonstrated the effectiveness of the safeguards of civil liberties put in place when the act was passed. There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse."7

The Washington Post reported Mr. Gonzales was in possession of at least six FBI reports detailing unlawful surveillance, searches and improper use of national security letters.8

Later, again under oath, Mr. Gonzales testified that his statement had been truthful because they were not "intentional" abuses of the Patriot Act.9

4. Did Mr. Gonzales mislead Congress when on July 24, 2007 he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the subject of an emergency meeting with the hospitalized then Attorney General John Ashcroft on March 10, 2004, was not the surveillance program, which allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on suspects in the United States without receiving court approval?

Mr. Gonzales said, "The disagreement that occurred, and the reason for the visit to the hospital, Senator, was about other intelligence activities. It was not about the terrorist surveillance program that the president announced to the American people."10

A four-page memorandum dated May 17, 2006 from the National Intelligence Director's office, obtained by The Associated Press, shows that the briefing was about the surveillance program.11

5. Did Mr. Gonzales mislead Congress when he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 18, 2007, about the appointment of "interim" U.S. Attorneys?

A provision quietly added to the Patriot Act in 2005 allowed the President to appoint "interim" U.S. attorneys for an indefinite period of time, without Senate confirmation. Mr. Gonzales testified under oath that "I am fully committed, as the administration's fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney."12

The Washington Post reported, "Justice officials discussed bypassing the two Democratic senators in Arkansas, who normally would have had input into the appointment, as early as last August. By mid-December, [D. Kyle] Sampson [former chief of staff to Attorney Gonzales] was suggesting that Gonzales exercise his newfound appointment authority to put [Tim] Griffin in place until the end of Bush's term."13

President Bush, the next Attorney General must respect the Constitution and the rule of law. Our country cannot afford and does not deserve an Attorney General who puts political loyalty above his sworn obligation to respect and defend civil liberties and civil rights.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader P.O. Box 19312 Washington, DC 20036

***

1Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. January 18, 2007.

2Johnston, David. "Dismissed U.S. Attorneys Praised in Evaluations." The New York Times. February 25, 2007. Available at < http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/25/washington/25lawyers.html?ex=1330059600&en=dbd84748 36df31fc&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss>3Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. May 10, 2007.

4Eggen, Dan and Amy Goldstein. "Justice Weighed Firing 1 in 4." The Washington Post. May 17, 2007. Available at < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/16/AR2007051602874.html>

5Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. January 6, 2005.

6Leonnig, Carol D. "Gonzales Is Challenged on Wiretaps." The Washington Post. January 31, 2006. Available at < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/30/AR2006013001318.html>

7Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. April 27, 2005.

8Solomon, John. "Gonzales Was Told of FBI Violations." The Washington Post. July 10, 2007. Available at <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/09/AR2007070902065.html>

9Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. July 24, 2007.

10Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. July 24, 2007.

11The Associated Press. "Documents Dispute Gonzales' Testimony." The New York Times. July 26, 2007.

12Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. January 18, 2007.

13Eggen, Dan and John Solomon. "Firings Had Genesis in White House." The Washington Post. March 13, 2007. Available at < http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/12/AR2007031201818_pf.htm

***

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

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