The Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be Attorney General on Thursday. While the nomination of a Latino to serve as the nation's highest law enforcement official would ordinarily be good news, the Senate should reject Gonzales because of his role in promoting the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and elsewhere. Torture is a violation of U.S. and international law and should not be tolerated under any circumstances. In legal terms, the right not to be subject to torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment is non-derogable.
As Counsel to the President, Gonzales wrote a memo dated January 25, 2002, that argued that the Geneva Conventions (one of the legal foundations of the international prohibition of torture) were "obsolete" and "quaint." Gonzales later argued that even U.S. citizens could be detained and denied the basic rights belonging to those accused of crimes for as long as the president considered it necessary. This position was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2004 in the case of Rasul v. Bush.
The president has a right to get legal counsel from a trusted friend and experienced attorney. The president also has the right to nominate whomever he wants to serve as Attorney General of the United States. The Constitution, however, gives the Senate the right to judge the fitness of the president's nominees to high executive and judicial offices. Because Alberto Gonzales, acting as Counsel to the President, urged President Bush to violate both domestic and international law (with disastrous consequences for the United States), the Senate should not hesitate to exercise its constitutional prerogative and declare Gonzales unfit to serve in the nation's highest law enforcement post.
Now would be an opportune time to call or e-mail the senators from your state about this important matter. Once again, the reputation of the United States as law-abiding nation is at stake.