Gonzales criticized on torture


Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 12:45 a.m.
WASHINGTON - Retired military officers, religious leaders and liberal interest groups said Tuesday that Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales should explain his views on torture and his role in crafting Bush administration policy on questioning terror suspects before the Senate votes on his confirmation.
While People for the American Way and Moveon.org announced their opposition to Gonzales' confirmation, most organizations said they want to hear from Gonzales at Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing before deciding whether to support him.
More than 225 clergy calling themselves Church Folks for a Better America signed a letter to Gonzales calling on him to "denounce the use of torture under any circumstances."
Some critics have said memos that Gonzales wrote or reviewed as White House counsel set up a legal framework that led to abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at the U.S. prison camp for terror suspects at Guant+namo Bay, Cuba.
A dozen retired generals and admirals, including Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton, said they had "deep concern" about the nomination.
They urged senators to question Gonzales aggressively about whether he now believes that torture may be used in some instances and whether anti-torture laws and treaties such as the Geneva Conventions apply to anyone captured by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The full extent of Mr. Gonzales' role in endorsing the use of torture remains unclear," retired Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Hoar said at a news conference organized by the group Human Rights First.
The controversy is not expected to stop the Senate from confirming Gonzales as the first Hispanic attorney general.
Republicans hold 55 seats, with 44 Democrats and one Democratic-leaning independent holding the others.
The Democrats have not yet decided whether to try to block Gonzales' confirmation.
Several Gonzales critics have been trying to connect him directly to the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal. Moveon.org plans a small television ad campaign starting on Thursday on CNN in Washington, D.C., and New York City using some of the Abu Ghraib pictures and Gonzales' picture.
"Call your senator today and say no to torture, say no to Alberto Gonzales," the ad says.
Democratic senators have signaled that they will press Gonzales on his role in shaping administration policy.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called on the White House to release more documents, including memos dealing with military tribunals and the origins of the administration's interrogation policies.
"While some of the documents may not specifically address interrogation policies, they are nonetheless relevant to your nomination," Leahy wrote in a letter to Gonzales.

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