Hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary on Nomination Hearing for Confirmation of Alberto R. Gonzalas to be Attorney General of the United States
STATEMENT OF HON. TOM COBURN, A U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA
Senator Coburn. Mr. Gonzales, thank you so much. I enjoyed our visit in the office. I think it is very important what has
not been said here today. We have talked about mistakes that have been made. We have talked about problems. But we always fail to emphasize the fact that the vast majority of the people who serve this country are doing it right, honorably, and in an aggressive, tolerable way that represents our values each and every day. And to not bring that forward and to always talk
about the negative does a disservice to our country, our heritage, and to our future. And I think we ought to be very
thankful for the vast majority of Americans that are serving our country today and are doing it in an honorable way. And
that would include you, sir, as you come forward and serve and have served our country.
I want to follow on a couple of things. Number one, I have an interest in prison reform as well with Senator Brownback,
but more specifically in terms of drug possession and drug addiction. I am convinced that we are handling that problem
wrong in this country. As a physician, I believe that we ought to be doing drug treatment rather than incarceration, and I
look forward to working with you in terms of emphasizing that, not only in terms of the faith-based ministries in prison but
also the direction towards drug treatment, because we know we can be successful there. And when we fail to do that, we do a disservice not only to those people that are incarcerated, we do a disservice to our public.
I am going to be rather short, but I am the only non-attorney on this panel, I think. And I am reminded in Article
I, section 5 of the Constitution, it says, ``Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings.'' That is what our
Founders said. And so I am not confused at all about the ability to change the rules in the operation of the Senate even
though it has a wonderful historical privilege.
I also am reminded that in the United States v. Balin, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld that, and they said two
things: one, when the Constitution is silent, the rule is majority vote; and, number two, a majority of either chamber
can always retain the power to draft and enact its own rules and procedures. So I do not think we ought to allow confusion
of what the Constitution actually says versus what potential may come in the future. And I think we ought to deal with what
The other thing that I think is important is to recognize the President's right to nominate and our right to confirm, and
to do that in a rigorous way. I appreciate the other side of the aisle and the questions that they have had of you. I think
they are pertinent. I think that the questioning that Senator Graham had I think raises significant questions for us to learn
from, especially in terms of the Code of Military Justice that has to be inculcated in decisions that go down the line. But I
also want to ask just a couple of questions.
Are you aware of any war that this country has been involved in in its history in which mistakes of human beings
have not been made and brought to light?
Judge Gonzales. Well, as you well know, as I well know, human beings are not perfect. Mistakes happen. Abuses occur. We know that that's true in all conflicts. Abuses occur not just in connection with military operations; abuses occur here in
our prisons. It is regrettable, and when we find out the abuses have occurred, we need to correct them and hold people
accountable. But it is true that abuses occur and have occurred, as far as I know, in all military conflicts.
Senator Coburn. And is it, to your knowledge, a policy of this administration at any time to tolerate torture or inhumane
behavior towards any of the detainees that we have?
Judge Gonzales. It is not the policy of the administration to tolerate torture or inhumane conduct toward any person that
the United States is detaining.
Senator Coburn. And then, finally, I would ask as you look at the Geneva Convention in Iraq and the difference that we
apply to that versus that against the Taliban and al Qaeda, was there a consideration for those who are not Iraqis in that
combatant field? In other words, did the Geneva Convention necessarily apply to all combatants in Iraq whether or not they
were Iraqi citizens or they were foreign mercenaries?
Judge Gonzales. That question was considered by the Department, and there was a fear about creating a sanctuary for
terrorists if we were to say that if you come and fight against America in the conflict with Iraq that you would receive the
protections of a prisoner of war. And I believe the Department--I know the Department issued, I believe some guidance, the Department of Justice issued some guidance with respect to whether or not non-Iraqis who came into Iraq as part
of the insurgency, whether or not they would also or likewise enjoy the protections of the Geneva Convention. And I believe
the conclusion was that they would not. But I would need to go back and confirm that, Senator.
Senator Coburn. Thank you.