Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Executive Session

Location: Washington, DC

EXECUTIVE SESSION -- (Senate - February 01, 2005)

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. MARTINEZ). Under the previous order, the Chair now recognizes the Senator from Massachusetts.

Mr. KENNEDY. I thank the Chair. I talked to the floor manager and indicated I was going to ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Florida, Mr. Nelson, be recognized and permitted to speak for 15 minutes after I yield the floor.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, is there a 15-minute time limit on how long Senator Nelson will speak?

Mr. KENNEDY. That was the time he requested, and that is the time I ask unanimous consent for.

Mr. SPECTER. Sounds good.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. KENNEDY. I thank the Chair.

Mr. President, as others have said, this is an extremely important nomination. I think all of us in this body take our responsibilities seriously. Those of us who have expressed some concern and reservation, even opposition, to this nominee are filled with admiration about his own personal story. I have said at other times, I wish I could vote for the story, not the individual, because the story, as has been pointed out, is the story of the American dream.

But there are decisions that were made when this nominee had important responsibilities that I think are in conflict with American values. The primary issue I am concerned about and that I find should be of concern to the American people is his attitude when he was the President's Counsel on the development of a policy of torture, which has been recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, by the Central Intelligence Agency, by the Defense Intelligence

Agency, by the Red Cross.

There is no question that he was at the epicenter in terms of the development of that policy. I think that is what is at issue; at least it is for me. And I think it is important that our colleagues have an opportunity to listen to the record.

I listened to my friend and colleague from Texas speak on his behalf, and I certainly respect his presentation. But I think the facts speak otherwise on a number of important points.

Earlier the chairman of the committee, Senator Specter, said in reference to the correspondence from the Department of Justice that he was not satisfied with the Justice response to Senator Durbin's and my request for the memos relating to a New York Times story, again related to torture. And I am certainly not, either.

What the Justice Department said was that they brief the Intelligence Committee on these memos and the materials then are classified. That does not help the rest of us. We still need to know whether the Times story was accurate. We are all cleared, obviously, as Members of the Senate to classified information. We need the information to decide on the Gonzales nomination, and we should have it before the vote.

In the final paragraph of the note from the Justice Department, it says:

Finally, the Office of Legal Counsel in its recent memorandum of December 30 stated we have received this office's prior opinions addressing issues involving interrogation of detainees and do not believe that any of their conclusions would be different under the standards set forth in the memorandum.

So the Justice Department piles secrecy upon secrecy.

Then in a letter received today, they refused to provide the second Bybee memo.

Justice says basically what the administration has said: Don't worry, it is taken care of. You in the Senate don't have to worry very much about it.

I find that troublesome.

Mr. SPECTER. Will the Senator from Massachusetts yield?

Mr. KENNEDY. I am glad to yield briefly.

Mr. SPECTER. I think the Senator misunderstood me. I did not say that I was dissatisfied with what the Department of Justice had submitted. What I did was to ask them to respond to the letter which I received this morning from you and Senator Durbin, and they responded with a letter which I have put in the RECORD where they have said that the second memo was not a memo that went to Judge Gonzales, but it was a memo that went from the Department of Justice to another client who had inquired as to what were the parameters of appropriate questioning. And the Department of Justice said that it had classified information and they would not release it and that it had been identified in previous correspondence with Senator Leahy and that it had been the subject of a briefing of a chairman of a relevant committee on the customer client.

I think all of this may boil down to a request by the CIA-I am speculating now; I want that clear for the record because that is not what the letter said-in that there was later a briefing to the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. So the matter did not go to Judge Gonzales, and that is a reason for not making the disclosure because he did not actually receive it. But I thank the Senator from Massachusetts for letting me comment. But I had not said that I was dissatisfied with what the
Department of Justice had done.

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, this is all about the issue of torture. We are talking about torture and the role that Mr. Gonzales played in the development of the dramatic change in American policy that overrode statutes that had been passed in the Senate and treaties which the Senate had signed. It is about torture. He is the legal counsel for the President. I will get back into the history of his role in this. But to dismiss a relevant document that is about torture, that is related to the subject matter of Mr. Gonzales, and think that we don't have an opportunity or right to review that, I find troublesome. I don't know what the administration is attempting to hide. I will come back to that later in my presentation about the failing of the responsiveness of Mr. Gonzales on these issues. It seems to me that any fair reading of this memoranda, of the questions that Senator Durbin and I asked, and reading of the Department of Justice memorandum would find them completely unresponsive. If that is not what the chairman of the committee says, I say it. I will move on.

This is one of the most important votes the Senate will take this year. The issues raised by Mr. Gonzales's nomination go to the heart of what America stands for in the world and the fundamental values that define us as a nation: our commitment to individual dignity, our respect for the rule of law, and our reputation around the world as a beacon for human rights, not as a violator of human rights.

President Bush said it well in his inaugural address last month:

From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

The world is watching to see if our actions match our rhetoric.

How can the Senate possibly approve the nomination of Mr. Gonzales as Attorney General of the United States, the official who symbolizes our respect for the rule of law, when Mr. Gonzales is the official in the Bush administration who, as the White House Counsel, advised the President that torture was an acceptable method of interrogation in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq? Torture is contrary to all that we stand for as Americans. It violates our basic values. It is alien to our military's longstanding rules and tradition. We send our men and women in the armed services into battle to stop torture in other countries, not to participate in it themselves.

These values did not change or become less relevant after 9/11. Americans did not resolve to set aside our values or the Constitution after those vicious attacks. We didn't decide as a nation to stoop to the level of the terrorists. To the contrary, Americans have been united in their belief that an essential part of winning the war on terrorism and protecting the country for the future is safeguarding the ideals and the values that America stands for at home and around the world.

Americans agree that torture is and should remain beyond the pale. A recent pole in USA Today showed that Americans strongly disapprove of the interrogation tactics that have been used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, including the use of painful stress positions, sexual humiliation, threatening prisoners with dogs, threatening to ship them to countries known to practice torture. The American public has held fast to our most basic fundamental values. How could our Government have gone so wrong?

Mr. Gonzales is at the center of a torture policy that has run roughshod over the values that Americans hold so dear. On issue after issue in developing this policy he has endorsed expediency over the rule of law. He adopted an absurdly narrow definition of torture in order to permit extreme interrogation practices. He advocated an unjustifiably expansive view of Presidential power, purporting to put the executive branch above the law. He ignored plain language of the Geneva Conventions in an attempt to immunize those who may commit war crimes. He continues to push a discredited interpretation of our treaty obligations to permit the CIA to commit cruel, inhuman, and degrading acts outside of the United States. He refuses to be candid about his interpretations, policies, and intentions.

The administration's policy on torture was established in August of 2002 in a Justice Department document called the Bybee or, more accurately, the Bybee-Gonzales memorandum. The memorandum was written at Mr. Gonzales's request. It reads: "Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President."

The first two sentences read:

You have asked for our Office's views regarding the standards of conduct under the Convention Against Torture and the Anti-Torture Statute passed by Congress in 1994. As we understand it, this question has arisen in the context of the conduct of interrogations outside the United States.

After its release in August 2002, the memoranda became the official policy on interrogations by the Defense Department and the CIA for 2 ½ years, until it was repudiated just last month at the last minute on the eve of Mr. Gonzales's nomination.

Yet, Mr. Gonzales refused to tell us anything about how the Bybee-Gonzales memorandum was written and why he ordered it. We know from press reports that the C.I.A. asked him for advice on how far the agency could go in interrogating detainees. In July 2002, he held meetings with other administration officials to discuss how to legally justify certain interrogation methods. He refuses to tell us anything about those meetings.

I have here the questions I had submitted, which were filed on January 18:

Did you participate in meetings where specific interrogation techniques were discussed?

I will include the full answers, but included in the answer is this:

For me to provide details about the methods of questioning terrorists mentioned in meetings that I attended would entail discussing classified information, and I am not at liberty to do so.

Could you tell the positions taken by the individuals present at the meetings when these topics were discussed?

Any meeting of the type you described, any records reflecting the information you specify would involve predecisional deliberations, and I am not at liberty to disclose.

What are predecisional deliberations? Is that executive privilege? If so, why don't they say it? If not, he has a requirement, and the committee should not have passed them out unless he was going to answer the questions.

Then it goes on:

Identify any notes or memoranda reflecting the CIA's request, any responsive actions by your office and the Department of Justice.

Any meeting of that type would involve predecisional deliberations and I am not at liberty to disclose.

Well, in preparation for your hearing, or since the hearing, did you review documents relating to the Bybee memorandum and its history?

I have conducted no search to the extent the documents requested may exist; moreover, they would involve deliberative material and I am not at liberty to disclose.

I listened to my colleagues on the other side talk about all of the questions asked, and I have 4 pages, 5 books, 16 documents. These are the answers. This is all part of the record. "I am not at liberty to disclose," he says.

It goes on:

Identify notes or correspondence reflecting advice or assessments, recommendations and your views on these issues.


I have not conducted a search.

The issue was torture.

I have not conducted a search. Any records reflecting the information you specify would involve deliberative material, and
I am not at liberty to disclose.

There it is, Mr. President. I will not take the time to go on. I will include those questions in the RECORD. They conducted a word search about torture, another word. It didn't kick out and they said: We conducted a complete search, and this is the best we can do for his answers. It is an insult to not just the Senate of the United States but the American people on the issue of torture.

We are talking about basically the single issue that is involved in the remarks I am making, about his role in the development of torture. Talk about values in this country, this is torture.

He says he can't remember what specific interrogation methods were discussed.

He can't remember who asked for the Justice Department's legal advice in the first place.

He can't remember whether he made any suggestions to the Department on the drafting of the Bybee-Gonzales Memorandum, although he admits that "it would not be unusual" for his office to have done so.

He doesn't know how the memo was forwarded to the Defense Department and became part of its "Working Group Report" in April 2003, which was used to justify the new interrogation practices at Guantanamo. Those practices, in turn, to use the obscure word resorted to by the administration, somehow "migrated" to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as if no human hand had been involved in the dissemination.

Torture became a pervasive practice. The FBI says so. The Red Cross says so. The Defense Intelligence Agency says so. The Defense Department says it has investigated more than 300 cases of detainee torture, sexual assault, and other abuse. Additional allegations of abuse-many of them too sickening to be described in open session on the floor of the Senate-are reported almost daily. Yet, Mr. Gonzales can't remember the details of how any of it happened.

The Judiciary Committee has repeatedly asked Mr. Gonzales to provide documents on his meetings, evaluations, and decisions on the Bybee memorandum. These documents would speak volumes about all the issues Mr. Gonzales says he has trouble remembering. Yet he refuses to provide the documents. He won't even search for them. In his responses to our written questions, Mr. Gonzales stated eight times that he has not "conducted a search" for the requested documents. In other words, the documents we want may exist, but he's not going to look for them. It's hard to imagine a more arrogant insult to the constitutional role of the Senate in considering nominations.

Mr. Gonzales refused to answer other questions and requests on the grounds that they would involve "classified information," "predecisional" or "internal deliberations," or "deliberative material" None of these grounds is sufficient. There is no legal prohibition against providing classified material to Congress. It's routinely provided to Congress and discussed in closed meetings. There is no recognized privilege for "predecisional" or "deliberative" materials. The only exception is in the rare case where the President himself decides that his interest in secrecy outweighs the public interest in disclosure, and he himself invokes executive privilege. That hasn't happened here.

It was clear when Mr. Gonzales was nominated that his involvement in the policy on prisoner detention and interrogation would be a major concern of the Senate, and that the Senate would need full information and materials on this subject. Serious abuses of detainees occurred in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Mr. Gonzales's role in developing their legal justification goes to the heart of the issue whether he should be confirmed as the Nation's chief law enforcement officer.

If we vote to confirm this nominee without insisting on answers to our Questions, we'll be abdicating our advice-and-consent responsibility and weakening our oversight function precisely when it is needed most.

The Bybee-Gonzales memorandum was not a law review article or newspaper op-ed article. As Mr. Gonzales himself has said, it was the definitive legal opinion by the Justice Department on the rules on torture for the entire executive branch of the Government.

We learned this past weekend from a New York Times article that the Justice Department's Criminal Division-then headed by Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, now the nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security-was advising the CIA on the legality of specific interrogation techniques, using the Bybee-Gonzales memo as its legal guideline.

Further, the Times reported that there is a second Bybee memo which goes into even more detail than the first about which methods of coercion can be used. We have repeatedly asked for information about the original Bybee-Gonzales memo and how it was used. The nominee and the White House have stonewalled us. We have repeatedly asked for other documents to be produced that would be relevant to understanding the first Bybee-Gonzales memo. The nominee and the White House have stonewalled us.

Yesterday, Senator DURBIN and I wrote a letter to the ranking members of the Judiciary and Government Accountability Committees outlining the pressing need for all relevant documents before we proceed to fully consider the nomination. Senator DURBIN and I wrote:

It is clear that the Senate should have the documents before it votes on these two nominations, since such materials go to the heart of the qualifications of the nominees to serve in the sensitive and important positions which they have been nominated for.

As far as we know, until the Department released its revised version of the memorandum last month, the Bybee memorandum was the official and definitive Justice Department opinion on the definition of torture, on the legal defenses for those who commit torture, and on the power of the President to override laws and treaties on torture.

Given the recent New York Times article, it may be that in addition to the second Bybee memo, which we do not have, there are other memos on torture that the White House refuses to disclose.

Harold Koh, a leading scholar of international law and Dean of the Yale Law School who served in both the Reagan and Clinton administrations, calls the Bybee memorandum the most clearly legally erroneous opinion he has ever read. As he told the Judiciary Committee:

If the counsel for the President receives such an opinion, you would have expected him to do at least one of two things: First, reject it on the spot and send it back or, second, send it to other parts of the government and have them give a second opinion, particularly the State Department which, I believe, following the policies in the U.S. Report on the Convention Against Torture, would have said that the opinion is flatly wrong.

Instead ..... that opinion was allowed to become the executive branch policy, was incorporated into the DOD working group report, and remained as executive branch policy for some 2 ½ years, during which time I believe that a permissive environment was inevitably created.

That is what Harold Koh said at the hearing. I hope every Member of the Senate will take the time to read his testimony.

In his response to our questions about the Bybee memorandum, Mr. Gonzales said he has "no specific recollection of [his] reaction to the conclusions, reasoning, or appropriateness as a matter of policy of any of the particular sections of the memorandum at the time [he] received it 2 ½ years ago."

He did say, however, that he believed at the time it was "a good-faith effort" to interpret the antitorture statute. At the hearing, he told Senator Leahy:

I don't recall today whether or not I was in agreement with all of the analysis, but I don't have a disagreement with the conclusions then reached by the Department.

Let's review those conclusions. They are summarized on the memo's final page. The Bybee memorandum made three basic points. First, it said that torture means only acts that inflict the kind of pain experienced with death or organ failure. That is what the memo said: The pain "must be of an intensity akin to that which accompanies serious physical injury, such as death or organ failure."

Second, the memo said that the President has the inherent constitutional power as Commander in Chief to override the prohibitions against torture enacted by the Congress. Application of the antitorture statute "to interrogations undertaken pursuant to the President's Commander in Chief powers may be unconstitutional," the memo said.

Third, the memo said that even if a Government official were to commit torture under the extremely narrow definition set forth, abusers could still invoke the defenses of "necessity" or "self-defense." As the memo states, "necessity or self-defense could provide justification that would eliminate any criminal liability." The memo made this outlandish claim even though the Convention Against Torture, which Congress ratified in 1994, states very clearly that "no exceptional circumstances whatsoever" may be invoked as a justification for torture.

Fourth, the memo states that even if the person inflicting pain knew that severe pain would result from his actions, he would not be guilty of a crime even if he acted without good faith if causing harm was not his primary objective. This analysis defines "intent" in a way that defines away any instances of torture. This is one of the serious errors in the Bybee-Gonzales memo that was contradicted in the new OLC memo of December 30, 2004, which replaced the original memo.

None of these points qualify as a reasonable or "good faith" legal argument. The Bybee memorandum defined torture so narrowly that Saddam Hussein's lieutenants could have claimed immunity from prosecution for many of their crimes. Beating you, suffocating you, ripping out your fingernails, burning you with hot irons, suspending you from hooks, putting lighted cigarettes in your ear-none of these categories are specifically prohibited under the Bybee memorandum since none involve near death or organ failure, the specific conditions required by the memo to constitute torture.

As Chairman Specter himself said today, the original Bybee-Gonzales memo was "erroneous in its legal conclusions," and its definition of torture "was not realistic or adequate."

Nevertheless, Mr. Gonzales allowed it to stand for over 2 years and allowed it to be disseminated to other agencies, such as DOD, where major portions were absorbed verbatim into official policy. And now we know from the Times that it was used in the Justice Department to approve specific extreme methods for the CIA.

Mr. Gonzales also refused to tell us whether the extreme conduct at Guantanamo described in the FBI e-mails is illegal.

This conduct included burning detainees with lighted cigarettes, exposing them to extreme temperatures, giving forcible enemas, holding them in prolonged stress positions in their urine or feces. He explained his refusal to respond by saying to us:

[W]ere the administration to begin ruling out speculated interrogation practices in public, by virtue of gradually ruling out some practices in response to repeated questions and not ruling out others, we would fairly rapidly provide al-Qaida with a roadmap concerning the interrogation that captured terrorists can expect to face.

That is arrant nonsense. Our laws and treaties, our military field manuals all provide specific and clear guidance on where to draw the line on torture. Mr. Gonzales's failure to condemn these acts of torture only weakens America's standing in the world and sets back our efforts against terrorism.

How can we confirm as the chief law enforcement officer a nominee who is afraid to stand up for the rule of law?

To reach this narrow definition of torture, the authors of the Bybee memorandum relied on totally unrelated Federal statutes that define emergency medical conditions for purposes of providing health benefits. The revision last December of the Bybee memoranda refuted this analysis stating that the statutes relied on "do not define severe pain even in that very different context ..... and they do not state that death, organ failure, or impairment of bodily function cause 'severe pain.""

Clearly, the memo's original definition of torture is wrong. If it is applied in other countries, U.S. soldiers and citizens traveling abroad would clearly be at risk.

The Bybee memorandum provisions on executive power are also wholly inconsistent with the separations of power in the Constitution. Article II, section 3 directs the President to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." Yet the Bybee memorandum states that the Federal antitorture statute would be unconstitutional if it "interferes with the President's direction of such core war matters as the detention and interrogation of enemy combatants."

At a press conference in June 2004, Mr. Gonzales refused to say whether this statement remains "good law" for the Bush administration. He would say only that the President "has not exercised his Commander in Chief override; he has not determined that torture is, in fact, necessary to protect the national security of this country."

Mr. Gonzales evaded questions on this issue by committee members. To this day, we still do not know whether the President believes he has the power as Commander in Chief to authorize torture. There is no such thing as a Commander in Chief override.

It is certainly not in my copy of the Constitution. It appears to be something that Mr. Gonzales and his colleagues have invented.

Congress has repeatedly passed laws and ratified treaties prohibiting torture and mistreatment of detainees, and the President does not have the power to violate them.

When a nominee claims that such an override exists, or suggests that those who commit torture might be able to invoke the defense of "necessity" or "self-defense" notwithstanding Cong-Ð ress's categorical prohibition against such a defense, it sends a message that "anything goes" to our troops and intelligence officers in the field. To allow such extreme claims to become official U.S. policy for two whole years was reckless and, in my view, disqualifying in any nominee for Attorney General.

Mr. Gonzales has also demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the rule of law in his effort to facilitate the CIA practice of "ghost detainees." The administration has always claimed to be in full compliance with the Geneva Conventions in Iraq. Yet in the spring of 2004, we learned from General Taguba that between six and eight of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib Prison had not been registered as required by Army regulations and were being moved around the prison to avoid detection by the International Committee for the Red Cross. General Taguba described this practice as "deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine and in violation of international law."

In September, Army investigators told the Armed Services Committee that at the CIA's direction, as many as 100 detainees at Abu Ghraib had been hidden from the Red Cross and that the CIA had refused requests to cooperate with the military investigation. This disclosure drew outrage from both Democrats and Republicans. Senator McCain said:

The situation with the CIA ghost soldiers is beginning to look like a bad movie. ..... This needs to be cleared up rather badly.

Since then, we have learned that Mr. Gonzales was a major architect of this policy. On March 19, 2004, the Justice Department provided him with a draft memorandum-the so-called "Goldsmith Memorandum"-to allow the CIA to ship certain persons out of Iraq. Once again, the memo's first page reads, "Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President." A separate cover page confirms that the opinion was requested by him. It is hard to imagine a clearer smoking gun.

Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifically states:

Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.

Violations of Article 49 constitute "grave breaches" of the Convention and therefore qualify as "war crimes" under Federal law.

In spite of the clear, unequivocal language of this provision, the Justice Department ruled that Article 49 does not in fact prohibit, for the purpose of "facilitating interrogation," the temporary removal from Iraq of "protected persons" who have not been accused of a crime. Scott Silliman, an expert in military law at Duke University, observed that the Goldsmith memorandum:

Seeks to create a legal regime justifying conduct that the international community clearly considers in violation of international law and the Convention.

Although the memo was labeled "draft," it was put into action. In October 2004, the Washington Post reported that one intelligence official familiar with the operation said the CIA used the memo:

As legal support for secretly transporting as many as a dozen detainees out of Iraq in the last six months. The agency has concealed the detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other authorities, the official said.

The legal analysis in the Goldsmith Memorandum is preposterous. Yet it appears to have provided a legal justification for the CIA to commit war crimes. As with the Bybee Memorandum, Mr. Gonzales has categorically refused to answer the

Senate's questions about his involvement.

He refuses to provide or even conduct a search for documents relating to his request for the Goldsmith Memorandum.

He refuses to say anything about his discussions with the author of the memo.

He says he does not know whether the CIA acted on the memo, as the Washington Post reported.

He even says that he has never had the "occasion to come to definitive views" about the analysis in the memo.

Far from helping to clear the air, Mr. Gonzales has clouded it further. To let his nomination proceed would
make a mockery of the notion of congressional oversight and accountability.

There are many other issues in Mr. Gonzales's record that should give Members of the Senate pause.

As predicted by Secretary Powell and senior military lawyers, Mr. Gonzales's memorandum of January 2002 on the applicability of the Geneva Conventions to the war in Afghanistan brought a strong negative reaction from even our closest allies and lowered the bar for the protection of our own troops.

According to the Schlesinger report, in September 2003 military commanders in Iraq cited this memo as legal justification for the use of extreme interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib prison. The worst abuses there occurred from September to December 2003.

In his answers to the committee, Mr. Gonzales made clear that the administration does not consider the CIA to be bound by the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. This shift in legal policy was apparently made in a separate Justice Department memorandum which has also not been provided to Congress.

Today, therefore, CIA agents are authorized to treat detainees in a cruel, inhuman, and degrading manner-even if it violates constitutional rules in the U.S.-so long as they do not commit "torture" under the Department's narrow definition. President Bush also exempted the CIA from his directive in February 2002 to treat all detainees "humanely." This shameful change in policy obviously endangers the safety of American soldiers who are captured abroad.

Finally, the New York Times reported that Mr. Gonzales excluded important administration personnel from deliberations on the administration's plan to establish military tribunals at Guantanamo, a plan that was widely criticized as unjust, unworkable, and unconstitutional. Secretary of State Powell, National Security Adviser Rice, and the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, Michael Chertoff, saw the President's Military Order only after it was published in November 2001. Most of the Pentagon's top military lawyers were also kept in the dark. More than 3 years after the order's publication, not a single detainee at Guantanamo has been successfully prosecuted. To the contrary, as predicted by officials who have expertise in the field, the military tribunal process there is falling apart.

Torture has never before been a Republican versus Democrat issue. Instead, it has always been an issue of broad consensus and ideals, reflecting the fundamental values of the Nation. President Reagan signed the Convention Against Torture in 1988.

President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton supported its ratification in 1994. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led by Senator Helms and Senator Pell, voted 10-0 to report the Convention favorably to the full Senate.

I hope that this tradition of bipartisanship and consensus will continue today. I hope that all Members of the Senate will cast their vote in a way that upholds our fundamental values.

A "no" vote is the right vote if we care about maintaining America's standing in the world and fighting the war on terrorism. The torture and other abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo have done immense damage to America's standing in the world. The extreme and irresponsible claims in the Bybee and Goldsmith Memorandums have raised basic questions about the genuineness of our commitment to the rule of law.

It is the right vote for our troops. The administration's shameful disregard for our laws and treaties on torture has lowered the bar for the protection of our own soldiers.

It has violated the military's longstanding "golden rule": Treat captured combatants in the manner we expect our own soldiers to be treated. What can Mr. Gonzales possibly say to a country that justifies its torture of a U.S. soldier by citing Mr. Gonzales's own record of support for it?

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top