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Center for Constitutional Rights
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOVEMBER 10, 2004
4:31 PM
CONTACT: Center for Constitutional Rights 
Mahids Keshavarz/David Lerner 212-260-5000
 
Center for Constitutional Rights Opposses Nomination of Alberto Gonzales to Attorney General Post
Group Cites Gonzales Memo Calling Geneva Conventions “Quaint” and “Obsolete”
 
NEW YORK - November 10 -- Today the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) voiced strong opposition to the nomination of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales to replace Attorney General John Ashcroft. Citing the infamous leaked January 25, 2002, Gonzales’ memo justifying the suspension of the Geneva Conventions in the war on terror, CCR Legal Director Jeffrey Fogel said, “To call the Geneva Conventions, which were put in place after the atrocities of World War II to govern the future conduct of war and prevent such horrors from ever occurring, ‘quaint’ and ‘obsolete’ is to go back down a path we thought we would never travel again.”

In early 2002, Gonzales, then Counsel to the President, sought a memo from the Justice Department addressing whether the Administration could evade current treaties and laws in its treatment of Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees without being open to prosecution for war crimes. Gonzales used that memo to justify ignoring such bedrock guarantees as the Geneva Conventions in the interrogation of prisoners, which led directly to the abuse and torture in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib prison.

Many within the Administration disagreed with the DOJ’s reasoning. Secretary of State Colin Powell wrote in opposition saying it would “reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice in supporting the Geneva Conventions and undermine the protections of the law of war for our troops”; that it would have a “high cost in terms of negative international reaction with immediate adverse consequences for our conduct of foreign policy”; and that it would make it harder to prosecute terrorists because other countries would have problems sending suspects to the U.S. as a result, among other concerns.

Gonzales flippantly dismissed Powell’s and others’ concerns, writing to the president that the Geneva Conventions had become “obsolete” in the context of the war on terror, and further trivialized the core point of the Conventions by enumerating such “quaint” provisions as affording prisoners athletic uniforms. Since then, the Secretary of State’s dire predictions have been borne out, and the disregard for law has made the U.S. less safe, not more.

CCR President Michael Ratner said, “making Alberto Gonzales the Attorney General of the United States would be a travesty: it would mean taking one of the legal architects of an illegal and immoral policy and installing him as the official who is charged with protecting our constitutional rights. The Gonzales memo paved the way to Abu Ghraib.”

In the same January 25 torture memo, Gonzales outlined plans to use military “commissions” to try prisoners so the Administration could deny them all military and civilian protections. These commissions were suspended indefinitely at Guantánamo due to a ruling by a federal judge this week.

More on Gonzales:

  • Gonzales is an old Bush crony from back in Texas who supported their friends’ corporate interests and took contributions from Halliburton and Enron when he was a judge.

  • As counsel to the Governor of Texas from 1995 to 1997, he provided Bush with what the Atlantic Monthly characterized as “scant summaries” on capital punishment cases that ''repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence.'' He did 57 such summaries, including for the case of Terry Washington, a mentally retarded man executed for murdering a restaurant manager. The jury was never told of his mental condition. Gonzales wrote a three-page summary of the case for Bush, which mentioned only that a 30-page plea for clemency by the defendant’s counsel (including the issue of his mental competency) was rejected by the Texas parole board.
  • Gonzales was Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1998-2000. During that time, Vice President Dick Cheney was head of Halliburton, and it was the second-largest corporate contributor to Texas Supreme Court races. Over a period of seven years, five cases involving Halliburton went before the Court, and the Court consistently ruled in favor of the corporation or let a lower court decision favorable to Halliburton stand without re-hearing the case.
  • During this same period, Gonzales lawfully accepted $14,000 from Enron, yet he subsequently did not recuse himself from the Administration’s investigation of the Enron scandal when he was White House counsel.
  • Gonzales upheld a law requiring parents to be notified before a minor could get an abortion, though the law, like most parental-notification laws, allowed judges to waive the requirement if observing it could be expected to lead to the abuse of the girl in question
  • In another nod to corporate interests over those of the people, his decision in Fort Worth v. Zimlich eliminated a key shield protecting whistleblowers from retaliation.
  • As White House Counsel, from 2000 to the present, Gonzales led the Bush Administration’s blocking of access by the Government Accountability Office to documents from Cheney’s secret energy policy meetings.

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