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Military Construction, Veterans Affairs And Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I rise to join in the comments Senator Grassley has offered. I voted for Attorney General Holder, and we had several conversations about being forthcoming in responding to our requests for information. I thought at the time he would be able to work with us and provide those kinds of answers and support. I have been disappointed, as has Senator Grassley.

A couple of examples: June 17, we had a hearing at which Attorney General Holder was present. It was an oversight hearing. He was asked a number of questions. He took many of those questions for the record which, of course, is perfectly fine. But his answers were not submitted to us for another 4 1/2 months. It was October 29 when we received the answers.

I wish to cite two examples of questions and answers which demonstrate the unresponsiveness of the Attorney General.

I asked him to identify the legal basis the Department of Justice could invoke to prevent a Gitmo detainee from being released into the United States if found not guilty in a Federal court--an important question because the administration apparently intends to bring Gitmo detainees to the United States for trial. Here is the response:

Where we have legal detention authority, as the President has stated, we will not release anyone into the United States if doing so would endanger the national security of the American people. There are a number of tools at the government's disposal to ensure that no such detainee is released into the United States, all of which are currently being reviewed by the Special Interagency Task Force on Detention Policy created pursuant to Executive Order 13493.

I asked the Attorney General to identify the operative legal authority that could be used to detain acquitted detainees. He responded by saying the administration probably would not release someone ``where we have legal detention authority.'' It is like a cat chasing its tail. What is legal authority? That was the question. Do you have legal authority? Releasing a detainee into the United States obviously could have grave consequences. I think we deserve more than just the Attorney General's vague and rather meaningless reference to tools at our disposal.

Similarly, I asked the Attorney General to explain whether the crimes committed by those presently held in U.S. prisons for conviction on terrorism charges are comparable to the terrorist acts of high-value detainees at Gitmo. The reason I asked was, they said we have several convicted terrorists in our prisons here in the United States.

My question was, Well, but are those really serious crimes as opposed to the 9/11-related crimes committed by those we are holding at Gitmo?

His response was:

A number of individuals with a history of, or nexus to, international or domestic terrorism are currently being held in federal prisons, each of whom was tried and convicted in an Article III court.

We knew that.

The Attorney General considers all crimes of terrorism to be serious.

Well, so do I. I am glad the Attorney General considers all crimes of terrorism to be serious. But that does not answer my question: How do these crimes compare to the crimes of those high-value detainees at Gitmo?

So these are examples of the kind of nonresponses we get from the Attorney General when we ask questions.

Let me close with one final point, and then if Senator Grassley would have anything else to say, I will certainly yield to him.

We know for several weeks we have had on the Judiciary Committee agenda a bill called the media shield bill. It is a bill that has a lot of problems with it. Many members of the past administration had written in opposition to the bill, pointing out the problem of convicting people who were engaged in espionage or acts of terror against the United States, in the event this legislation were to be passed.

So I was curious about this Attorney General's views on that. He finally got us a views letter last week, and he said ``the result of a series of productive and cooperative discussions with the sponsors and supporters of the legislation'' is how they put this latest draft together. Obviously, absent is any discussion with those of us who have expressed our longstanding concerns.

This is one of those matters I had raised with the Attorney General at his confirmation hearing, and his reply was:

The concerns you raised are legitimate ones.

So I am glad my concerns were legitimate.

He also said at his hearing that he would--I am quoting now--``work with both Republicans and Democrats on this Committee on a federal media shield law.''

Further, during my questioning of Attorney General Holder on the media shield bill, he again stated his willingness to ``work to address the concerns raised in'' views letters issued in the 110th Congress.

In response to my questions, he testified:

I want to talk to you and to people who worked on this bill and who might have a contrary view of it.

I never heard from him again. I met with him on May 4 to reaffirm my strong interest in the legislation. I never heard from him after that meeting.

This is despite the fact that in response to a question I asked, Attorney General Holder testified:

I want to talk to you and to people who worked on this bill and who might have a contrary view of it. As I said before, I guess in my opening statement, you know, knowledge doesn't reside only in the executive branch. The experience that you've had with this, the obvious knowledge that you have of these issues are the kinds of things that I need to be educated about. It may change my mind, frankly.

Well, maybe it would have. But by not talking to me, he was able not to change his mind.

I heard that a new version of the bill had been written, and I reviewed it. So, finally, on November 2 I called the Attorney General myself to express my concerns about it. I asked if I could get an explanation of why this version satisfied all of the objections that had been previously raised, and I interpreted his response to be that he would testify before the committee if he were called upon to do so.

Well, 2 days later, as I said, this views letter was sent to us. To put it charitably, it is extraordinarily light on analysis.

I, as I said in the beginning, voted for Attorney General Holder. I thought at the time he would keep the commitments he made to us under oath at his confirmation hearing. He assured us he wanted to work with us and he would be forthcoming and cooperative.

Mr. President, I think it is time for the Attorney General to keep the commitments he made in his confirmation hearing.


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